Gary Baker and Stephanie Hermiston were two of dozens who received a hot turkey dinner at Baillie Avenue, from the Gospel Mission, Saturday night (Dec. 19). They said the meal was very much appreciated. Baker and Hermiston are currently experiencing homelessness in Kelowna. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)

Gary Baker and Stephanie Hermiston were two of dozens who received a hot turkey dinner at Baillie Avenue, from the Gospel Mission, Saturday night (Dec. 19). They said the meal was very much appreciated. Baker and Hermiston are currently experiencing homelessness in Kelowna. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)

Christmas meals for Kelowna’s less fortunate a ‘silver lining’ amid difficult time of year

Gospel Mission staff took to the streets to feed approx. 500 on Dec. 19.

By the end of the night they will have fed 500, and for those that don’t have much, a warm meal lovingly prepared by a stranger can go a long way.

On Saturday, Kelowna’s Gospel Mission took to the road to distribute warm turkey dinners to those in need. One of their first stops was a gravel parking lot on Baillie Avenue, where dozens of people eagerly accepted their gift.

That night, they distributed about 400 meals to those on the streets. Some of their meals were also delivered to other shelters and supportive housing units around town.

Each meal included turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, topped off with a slice of pie.

On Baillie Avenue, a line of people waiting for meals formed. Some put their meal into a backpack and walked or rode off, while others immediately started eating.

Story continues below.

Gospel Mission volunteers hand out meals on Baillie Avenue in Kelowna, Saturday night (Dec. 19). (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)

Gospel Mission volunteers hand out meals on Baillie Avenue in Kelowna, Saturday night (Dec. 19). (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)

Dozens wait in line for meals being handed out by the Kelowna Gospel Mission, on Baillie Avenue. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)

Dozens wait in line for meals being handed out by the Kelowna Gospel Mission, on Baillie Avenue. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)

With arms linked, Gary Baker and Stephanie Hermiston quietly stood in line together. After receiving their meal they thanked the volunteers, wished them a Merry Christmas and walked back to their tent which was situated close by.

Baker finished his meal quickly. Hermiston savoured it. Both agreed it meant a lot.

“It’s survival,” said Baker.

“He said it – I was hungry, I know it meant a lot to me right now,” added Hermiston.

After finishing their meal they leaned against each other in the cold and chatted about what time they were going to be woken up in the morning, and where they would go next.

Asked how they were feeling with Christmas just around the corner, they looked at each other and smiled. Baker said he’s happy to have a new partner. Stephanie agreed but admitted the holidays can be depressing. She wished she was with her kids.

Story continues below.

Stephanie Hermiston enjoys her turkey dinner inside her tent. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)

Stephanie Hermiston enjoys her turkey dinner inside her tent. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)

Stephanie Hermiston savours her turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)

Stephanie Hermiston savours her turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)

Back at the Gospel Mission shelter on Leon Avenue, about 60 sat down together to eat. At the 40-bed winter shelter on Doyle Avenue, they did the same.

For some, it’s a glimmer of happiness during a dreary and depressing season.

“Nobody wants to spend Christmas at a shelter; not if they can help it. So if you’re here at Christmas, it’s probably not because you’re having the best season of your life,” said Carmen Rempel, Gospel Mission executive director.

Story continues below.

Gospel Mission executive director, Carmen Rempel, pictured outside the shelter Dec. 19. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)

Gospel Mission executive director, Carmen Rempel, pictured outside the shelter Dec. 19. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)

Rempel said they do everything they can to honour their residents, and celebrate Christmas with them tactfully, to prevent emotional hurt.

“I was just in there now talking to one who was so sad. And I asked him why. Because he’s usually a very ‘up’ guy … he looks at me and says, ‘Carmen, it’s just this time of year. It’s just the season. It’s supposed to be happy and it’s supposed to be merry and bright, but it’s not.’

“So the reason we do this is so that we have a little bit of merry and bright.”

That evening, the Gospel Mission residents felt a sense of family.

“It’s an opportunity for people who are really down and low, to have some normalcy and comradery,” said Sonja Menyes, manager of volunteers at the Gospel Mission.

Story continues below.

Sonja Menyes, Manager of Volunteers and the Gospel Mission, stands in the shelter doorway on Dec. 19. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)

Sonja Menyes, Manager of Volunteers and the Gospel Mission, stands in the shelter doorway on Dec. 19. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)

Due to COVID-19, shelters have not been able to welcome guests. While volunteers would normally come in to help prepare the meal and decorate the shelters, this year that duty fell on the residents.

However, that was welcomed, as the opportunity to help brought a sense of dignity.

“They have become a little family. They support one another, and they’re all helping out … this is their Christmas. Not even something they’re just receiving via charity. This is their celebration,” said Rempel.

In a place mat on a table, a message from a donor reads, ‘Love is all you need.’

Story continues below.

A place mat on a table inside the Gospel Mission has a message from a donor, which reads, ‘Love is all you need’. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)

A place mat on a table inside the Gospel Mission has a message from a donor, which reads, ‘Love is all you need’. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)

This year has undoubtedly resulted in far more challenges for many, but for individuals at the Gospel Mission, there’s an upside. Due to the lower numbers of people coming and going, this group of 60 on Leon Avenue has coalesced into ‘something quite special.’

“We see more and more guys who have become stable. There’s guys who would have been considered a year ago to be absolutely unhouseable, because their mental health was at such a state that made it really impossible to have any sort of stability,” said Rempel.

A calm and peace has come over the mission, allowing many to heal and move forward in their recovery journey.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: phil.mclachlan@kelownacapnews.com


 

@newspaperphil
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

ChristmasHomelessness

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin makes preparations at Toronto’s mass vaccination clinic, Jan. 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
3 deaths, 234 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

One death connected to outbreak at Kamloops’ Royal Inland Hospital, where 20 patients and 28 staff have tested positive

People in Kelowna’s City Park on May 18, 2020. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Downtown Kelowna’s City Park scheduled for facelift

Designs for the future of City Park unveiled; construction to begin fall 2021

The scene of a serious crash on Highway 33 in Kelowna that killed one and severely injured two others on June 20, 2018. (File)
Driver found guilty of causing death, injury in 2018 Kelowna crash

Travis Ryan Hennessy will face sentencing at a later date

(Michael Rodriguez - Capital News staff)
UPDATE: Downtown stairwell fire suspicious, Kelowna RCMP say

The fire was knocked down at Gotham Nightclub

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran addresses media from the front steps of council chambers on March 23. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Kelowna, West Kelowna still looking to opt-out of speculation tax

Mayors say spec tax has missed the mark, revenue largely coming out of Canadians’ pockets

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

Zaudanawng “Jay-Dan” Maran in his Creston home. Hanging on the wall behind him is a logo of Kachin’s Manaw festival. Photo: Aaron Hemens
From Myanmar to Creston: The story of a refugee

In October 2007, Zaudanawng “Jay-Dan” Maran and his friends encountered a woman being sexually assaulted by two Myanmar soldiers.

Kamloops This Week.
48 COVID-19 cases and one death associated with outbreak at Kamloops hospital

One of the 20 patients infected has died, meanwhile 28 staff with COVID-19 are isolating at home

Rolling seven-day average of cases by B.C. health authority to Jan. 21. Fraser Health in purple, Vancouver Coastal red, Interior Health orange, Northern Health green and Vancouver Island blue. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
2nd COVID vaccine doses on hold as B.C. delivery delayed again

New COVID-19 cases slowing in Fraser Health region

Head Brewer Kody Rosentreter, owner Wes Greve and taproom manager Lisa Deleo celebrated North Basin Brewing’s grand opening Jan. 22 and 23, 2020. (Contributed)
Osoyoos’ first microbrewery celebrates grand opening

The brewery hopes to show that the Okanagan is more than just wine country

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. Two more cases of the COVID-19 strain first identified in South Africa have been diagnosed in British Columbia, bringing the total to three as of Jan. 16.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. now has three cases of South African COVID-19 variant, six of U.K. strain

Both variants are thought to spread faster than earlier strains

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Great Canadian Gaming CEO resigns after being accused of sneaking into Yukon for vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Police discovered a makeshift nightclub in a Vancouver apartment on Jan. 23, 2021, and say it wasn’t the first time this month officers have been called to the unit over social gathering concerns. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Doorman of makeshift ‘booze-can’ in Vancouver apartment fined; police look to court order

This marks the fourth complaint about social gatherings inside the apartment in January

Most Read