Kelowna's Gospel Mission serves up Christmas dinner
With Christmas lights and decorations hung around Kelowna's Gospel Mission today, guests are being served a festive meal to get them into the holiday spirit.
Hundreds of meals have been prepared for the homeless members of the community and those at risk of being homeless; the invitation is also extended to anyone, regardless of circumstance, who otherwise wouldn't be able to take part in a Christmas dinner this year.
"It's open to anyone who wants to come down," said Gospel Mission executive director Randy Benson.
"Obviously we have our regular clients who come in and know about it, but we do have other people who come as well."
Christmas dinner is one of three festive meals the Gospel Mission puts on every year. The Gospel Mission also prepares large dinners for Easter and Thanksgiving.
"Christmas is probably the most festive of them all," said Benson.
"It includes some gifts for the people who come that have been prepared by (local) churches. With the decorations and everything, it's a very special meal."
Preparing Christmas dinner at the Gospel Mission is a process that begins weeks in advance and involves several volunteers.
Forty turkeys, 16 hams, 500 pounds of potatoes, 90 pounds of veggies and massive amounts of stuffing, gravy and desserts were prepared to feed the expected 600 visitors.
"Our cooks start a few weeks before, actually cooking the turkeys and preparing them.
"Then just a few days before, lots of volunteers come in, peel the potatoes and get all that done. And on the day of (the dinner), about 50 volunteers come in."
Benson added there is a high demand to help out with the Christmas dinner—the sign-up sheet to volunteer is usually full by September or October.
"We actually give priority to our regular volunteers who want to come out."
One man who doesn't have a problem getting his name on the list is 80-year-old Fred Missal, who has been volunteering with the Gospel Mission for about 15 years.
"I love it," said Missal.
"I like to serve."
Missal said times weren't always easy for him growing up; therefore, he enjoys the opportunity to help out now.
"I know what poverty means.
"This is something useful, which benefits the community and individuals."