He wouldn’t leave his name but that wasn’t a surprise, with the stigma that surrounds the Kelowna Gospel Mission and the people it serves.
But a Kelowna man was sure appreciative of a warm meal and some good company on Thanksgiving Monday at the Kelowna Gospel Mission’s annual Thanksgiving feast.
“Some people view this as a negative,” said the man, looking around as he left the Kelowna Gospel Mission after a traditional turkey meal. “It shouldn’t be that way but it is. It’s great that these people can do this. I find myself in a bind now and again and it’s nice to be able to come and have a nice meal. It’s important.”
The man had just enjoyed one of about 700 meals that the Kelowna Gospel Mission prepared for Kelowna’s homeless and those in need on Thanksgiving. People lined Leon Avenue waiting their turn while an army of volunteers worked the kitchen and served the meals.
The man wasn’t what the mission considers its regular clientele but was in need of something to lift his spirits on a day most Canadians are spending with family, indulging in turkey feasts.
“We have lots of people who I wouldn’t call regulars,” explained gospel mission executive director Randy Benson. “But their life situation has it so that they can’t enjoy a meal like most of us do. Most people across Canada get to enjoy family time on Thanksgiving and we like to provide that.”
The Thanksgiving day turkey meal is one of three major meals that the Kelowna Gospel Mission provides for free each year along with Christmas day and Easter. It has become the most popular meal of the three and the kitchen was hopping from noon until the final sitting at 5 p.m. on Monday. Up until three years ago the mission would serve 400 to 500 meals at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter but the past three years the number has risen to over 700. The mission holds a turkey drive to get the meat and also relies upon donations of food and money to purchase the rest.
“I think this is something that is very important for the community,” said Benson. “We have a lot of regulars who have come to appreciate this as a special day. It’s also a meaningful day for our volunteers who get to make a difference in people’s lives.”
Kelowna’s Gospel Mission serves an average of 400 meals every day to the homeless and working poor in and around Kelowna. But Thanksgiving Monday the kitchen nearly doubled its ouput using 45 turkeys 16 hams, over 600 pounds of potatoes, 40 pounds of mixed vegetables and 60 litres of gravy.
And there were plenty of smiles to go around as well, including on the face of the Kelowna man who didn’t want to leave his name. He was happy, as he got set to leave the mission and make way for the next sitting.
“It lifts the spirits,” he said as he looked around. “If you’re just rummaging around or you don’t have a meal to go to it’s easy to get down. But you come here, you meet some people and have some conversation and a meal and it lifts you up.”