Kelowna’s Gospel Mission brings the community together with free Thanksgiving meal

The Thanksgiving meal can be received between 12 p.m. and 6 pm. today at the Mission

The less fortunate in Kelowna had access to a free traditional Thanksgiving meal Monday, thanks to the local Gospel Mission.

Staff and volunteers of all ages prepared long and hard for the annual traditional meal, cooking 60 turkeys, 20 hams, 500 pounds of potatoes, as well as stuffing, gravy and, of course, the traditional pumpkin pie.

Thanksgiving dinner has historically been the largest meal event for the Gospel Mission, dating back over 30 years.

Randy Benson, executive director of the Mission, said he expects between 700 and l000 people to attend the thanksgiving gathering from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. today.

“Not only do our clients and a lot of people from our shelter come out, but a lot of people from our community come out as well,” he said.

“The demographic has changed from past years. Now we have all ages. Certainly, from the shelter’s perspective, the senior’s group has increased, but there will also be a lot of young people and some families who come in with their children.”

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The annual meal is organized in a family fashion, with 14 tables set up for people to sit and eat together.

Many members of the community asked to help with the dinner this year. More than 50 volunteers helped, with each person assigned to a specific table. After the initial serving, the volunteers were responsible for attending to the dinners at their table, as well as cleaning up.

“Certainly, for our community, it provides a chance to give back,” said Benson.

“I think, as well, for the people who get involved, it normalizes the homeless people. Too often we tend to put them in a group by themselves, but really they’re like you and me. We’re all just one paycheck away from being homeless.

“I think for the people we serve, it’s also a chance to honor them and let them know that they’re important, they’re loved and they’re supported. It goes beyond just the regular meal. We want it to be an experience for them.”

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Terry Scott is the lead volunteer at the Gospel Mission. He had spent 35 years in the RCMP before retiring and lending his time to help the less fortunate. He said the dinner showcases the Mission’s need to feed as many people as they do.

“There’s a lot of people out there who just can’t afford a regular meal and we’re here to provide it. Not just today, but every day of the year.”

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