Thousands of people in need on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside will be able to enjoy a warm Thanksgiving meal this weekend, thanks to the efforts of volunteers at Union Gospel Mission.
Volunteers will come together to cook the holiday feast on Monday, Oct. 14 to ensure no one in the community has to go without company and a meal.
Among those giving back in the kitchen will be Jacki Stock. The 47-year-old recently overcame a long battle with drug addiction and homelessness with the help of UGM.
Now, after more than a year of sobriety, Stock wants to share her story in the hopes it might inspire others to seek help.
Stock said she turned to drugs at the young age of 13 to numb the pain of her father’s death, which sparked a struggle with addiction that would span decades.
“Things were great for me and then, bang, he [dad] had a heart attack and died,” she said. “Drugs were an escape.”
Later in life her addiction demanded every dollar she had, leading her into homelessness and further emotional pain. She separated from her children and absorbed the unjust shame so commonly directed at those experiencing homelessness.
“Toward the end of my time on the streets I was crying every day…it was just a struggle,” Stock said.
Just before Thanksgiving in 2018, Stock found stability at UGM.
“I’d lost all hope… but UGM’s Sanctuary took away my worries,” she said. “I did not need candles for my heat or need to worry if my blankets were wet, or if it was going to rain, or those little things that everybody takes for granted that I struggled with every day.”
With UGM’s help, Stock was able to set her life back on track.
Jeremy Hunka, from UGM, described Stock’s story as “a beacon of hope during a time of record homelessness.”
“Hundreds will connect to UGM this holiday just like Jacki, and find long-term support that will transform their lives and help them exit homelessness,” he said.
Stock said she really just wanted people to know that change “is possible.”
“You look at your life today and think, ‘how do I do it?’” she said.
“By taking that first step and asking for help, because somebody will help you and the rewards are endless.”
It’s expected UGM will serve up more than 3,000 meals between 10:30 a.m. and 4: 30 p.m. at its main location at 601 East Hastings St.
A whopping 2,000 pounds of turkey (that’s 130 turkeys) along with a mountain of sides including 800 pounds of mashed potatoes, 700 pounds of vegetables, 800 pounds of stuffing, 300 litres of gravy, 260 litres of cranberry sauce and 3,600 dinner rolls will be prepared for the day.
To top it all off, for dessert there will be 600 pumpkin pies and 400 litres of ice cream ready to go.
Date: Monday, Oct. 14
Time: Meals served 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Where: Main location: 601 East Hastings St. (at Princess Avenue) and UGM New Westminster: 658 Clarkson St. (doors open at noon).