On Saturday December 7th 2013 the Union Gospel Mission served over 3000 meals at their 73rd Annual Christmas Dinner. At the Union Gospel Mission’s main facility on the corner of Princess and East Hastings Street, a bustling crowd was already growing at 11am. With the smiling faces of over 200 volunteers and the shining sun that was unique for the time of year, one’s heart felt warm by simply being in the environment. Along with 2 other locations, the Union Gospel Mission served up a traditional Christmas dinner complete with all the dressings. Turkey, mashed potatoes, steamed vegetables, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and silky gravy were plated and handed out to members of the East Hastings Community, while dessert consisted of cherry pie and ice cream. While eating the hearty meal, one would notice the placemats that covered the long tables were adorned and autographed by donors that made the event possible. It was an achievement to see the community come together and help the less fortunate during this cold and wet time just before Christmas and New Years.
During the rest of the year, the Union Gospel Mission helps individuals around the Downtown Eastside. Over the course of 2012 alone, the Union Gospel Mission served over 340,000 meals while offering over 25,000 night stays at any one of their Emergency Shelters. They also provide job placements for over 100 people and proudly aid an additional 65 people in the Alcohol and Drug Recovery Program.
After speaking with Bill Mollard, President of the organization, I finally understood the premise and reasoning behind their mission. “It’s not just a meal,” Bill explained to me, “it’s an opportunity to transform their lives.” Its not just a warm bed to sleep in one night or a piece of pie to satisfy hunger, it’s a realization that people care about your well being, and you can get through whatever it is you are going through. It’s a gentle nudge to allow for the community the realization to seek out aid that the Union Gospel Mission offers. Steps from one meal to alcohol and drug recovery, to affordable housing, to food hampers, and even to job placements are in place to give people the opportunity to have a second chance and rebuild their broken lives.
With more events taking place all year round and the growing need for clothing and food donations during the cold winter months, there are countless volunteer opportunities that allow you to give back and feel apart of the community.
“There is nothing more profound in my young, or old, life then helping another person. And when that person is hurting and needs help, to come alongside them and recognize them as just someone else on this journey and they’ve fallen down, they’re hurting and they can’t get up. If you want to make your life valuable, if you want to feel a sense of purpose, just volunteer at UGM. Come and make a difference in someone else’s life, you will always remember it. It will send your journey in a different direction and make it a life worth living.” – Bill Mollard, President UGM Vancouver