A West End senior who lives by herself has social media to thank for not having to spend this past Thanksgiving dinner alone.
When Jarka Asterova called the Courier last week distraught that she had nobody to send the holiday with, reporter Sandra Thomas turned to Twitter to ask if anyone knew of anywhere suitable for her to turn to.
Two Vancouver politicians who are among her contacts rose to the occasion. Former Liberal MLA for Vancouver-Burrard Lorne Mayencourt, who now works as the government caucus' outreach worker, invited his former constituent into his family home for a traditional turkey dinner and, as it turned out, the two already knew each other.
"It was quite funny because I had met Jarka years ago just from living in the West End," said Mayencourt over the phone from Victoria. "I never knew her last name and I hadn't seen her in a number of years but I knew as soon as I picked her up. 'Oh, it's Jarka!' Being an MLA, I would see her in various discussion groups."
He added that while there are a number of non-profit organizations or church groups who often offer community dinners during special holidays, they aren't necessarily for everyone.
"We do one every year at Christmas for the West End Seniors [Network Society] and that is a great one because you get three to four hundred people and share some time together but if you're a not a member of that group or you haven't connected in some way, you can miss it," he said. "People do get lonely in this city and it is really important to have opportunities for people to get together and be with other people."
Asterova, who politely declined to give her age, says she isn't ready to belong to a seniors group.
"I look younger, I feel younger, I don't think I am ready to be a senior yet. I have nothing in common with them," she said.
Asterova also went out for lunch at Denny's the following day with the current MLA for the West End, the NDP's Spencer Chandra Herbert. She said she was grateful to spend time with some new acquaintances.
"It was nice to be with people with brains, which is so seldom in my life."
Chandra Herbert says the impromptu lunch date was mutually beneficial.
"She was very sweet. She said 'I voted for you in 2008' but we soon got off politics and she told me all about her history growing up in during World War II and living under the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia. So I gained a lot out of it, too."
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