Serving a free Thanksgiving dinner is a 40-year tradition at Kelowna’s Gospel Mission. And on Monday, 50 volunteers helped keep that tradition alive for hundreds of diners.
For five hours, all those who showed up were fed at the Leon Avenue mission.
According to executive director Randy Benson, a total of 800 to 1,000 were given a traditional roast turkey and ham meal, complete with a slice of pie for dessert.
The meal is the largest single event that the mission puts on each year.
And it takes about a month of planning and preparation.
“At home, most of us get stressed out cooking for 14 people. Imagine cooking for over 1,000,” said Gospel Mission kitchen manager Mandy Phillips.
“We could not have done it without the help of our many volunteers. We feel blessed to be able to pay it forward by helping people who have experienced hardship in their lives. I am thankful to work at a place where people feel welcomed and accepted. When basic needs of life like food and shelter are met, people are free to focus on the next steps of their life.”
Most of the food is donated for the event.
The Thanksgiving dinner provided a family-like atmosphere for people who might otherwise not have a meal on the day.
“It means a lot,” said Dawn Severight, a 28-year-old Calgarian who is homeless.
She said while it has been rough here because of the lack of housing, the Gospel Mission, and the services it offers, have helped.
“It’s nice to see people really care for the homeless,” she said.
The mission’s mammoth sit-down meal, with many well-known locals acting as servers, grows in popularity each year.
Benson said on Monday, he saw a lot of people he did not recognize come through the doors, pointing to his belief there are more new people on the street now than ever before.
“We want to help people and give them a sense of place,” he said.
But while high-profile events like the Thanksgiving, Easter and Christmas meals get a lot of the attention, the mission says its needs extend beyond those times and any help is greatly appreciated at all times of the year.
To help, contact the Kelowna Gospel Mission to donate, become a regular volunteer or give an in-kind gift.
As for the Thanksgiving Day meal, here is a measure of the event by the numbers:
• 50 volunteers working in shifts between noon and 6 p.m.
• 60 turkeys
• 16 hams
• 54 gallons of stuffing
• 70 litres of gravy
• 1,100 pieces of pie
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