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COVID-19 survivor, DTES resident serves up Thanksgiving meals for community

Citynews 1130 Vancouver

Last Updated Oct 10, 2020 at 6:37 pm PST

(Courtesy Union Gospel Mission)

Jennifer Allan is volunteering to serve meals at Union Gospel Mission, paying forward the support she has received

The annual Thanksgiving meal had to be adapted due to the pandemic but UGM remains committed to serving the community

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — A woman who recently survived COVID-19 says she has a lot to be thankful for and she looks forward to helping serve “to go” turkey meals on the Downtown Eastside this weekend.

Jennifer Allan lives in transitional housing at the Union Gospel Mission. She tested positive for the virus about a month ago and was sick for three weeks straight. It was only a week ago that the nurses at Vancouver Coastal Health cleared her to be able to volunteer this weekend.

She was hospitalized twice for chest pains, and once for seizures. Despite this, she chose not to rest this long weekend, and instead give back and serve people in need.

“I remember what it’s like to be on the streets during Thanksgiving and to have no one around you, have no access to healthy foods,” she says.

“Basically, you feel forgotten by society. It feels very important for me to be in this situation to give back to the people who were in the same situation that I once was.”

The pandemic has forced Union Gospel Mission to adapt its annual Thanksgiving meal to comply with health and safety protocols.

Spokesperson Nicole Mucci says volunteers and staff will be serving over 1600 meals over the course of several days. Usually, they serve up to 3,000 meals within on one day at their main location.

“We are working with a small but mighty skeleton crew, with a handful of volunteers and a handful of staff to make this happen. It is different than previous years because usually, we have over 100 volunteers coming with us over the course of one day to make Thanksgiving so memorable,” she explains.

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Allan knows from experience how vital these services are, and how connecting people with the support they need has grown more challenging due to COVID-19.

“These places are all places that feed them. They depend on these places for food. For the people of the Downtown Eastside, this is a matter of life or death. So this food they get might be the only food they get all day,” she explains.

“A lot of social services are closed that these people depend on. They can’t socialize. As a result of that, a lot of people are literally laying in the streets. There’s no place for them to go.”

Mucci says, even with reduced capacity this year, UGM Thanksgiving is about providing hope and dignity to neighbours.

“Even though this is the bleakest of times, this simple Thanksgiving meal will remind people that they are loved and not forgotten, that there’s hope on the horizon, and they have something to celebrate.”