Vancouver charity carries on 80-year tradition of serving Christmas meals

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A Vancouver charity is serving its annual Christmas lunch and dinner to nearly 1,400 people this weekend, but COVID-19 restrictions mean turkey and vegetarian options will be distributed in biodegradable take-out containers.
Nicole Mucci, spokesperson for the Union Gospel Mission, said that last year about 3,000 people ate Christmas meals at six locations in and around Vancouver in a single day.

Mucci says they will be served at three locations for four days this year to comply with physical distancing measures.

She says around 100 volunteers and staff typically prepare and serve meals to the homeless and underhoused, but fewer people are available to help during COVID-19.

The mission was a mainstay of Vancouver’s poor Downtown Eastside for 80 years, Mucci says, and served its first Christmas dinner to residents of the neighborhood on December 25, 1940.

‘Lots of new faces’

Mucci says the charity hopes to resume its big party with a live band on its main site next year, but for now is trying to meet the needs of as many people as possible.

“We serve the really delicious turkey dinner with treats like pie and chocolate,” she says, adding socks, oranges and water.

Mucci says staff and volunteers wear personal protective equipment while serving many new people this year.

“There are a lot of new faces, in part because of the pandemic and the current opioid crisis, and the affordability crisis,” she says.

“There is a pandemic, but we always find ways to celebrate. ”

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