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Union Gospel Mission serves 80th annual Christmas Dinner despite COVID-19 challenges

Last Updated Dec 12, 2020 at 12:16 pm PDT

(Courtesy Union Gospel Mission @ugm)

Despite the COVID pandemic, an annual Downtown Eastside tradition is still taking place this Saturday

The Union Gospel Mission is set to doll out around 1,400 Christmas meals

Like other meals the UGM has put out this year, the food is being boxed up and handed out to those in-line

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It’s going to be a busy day at the Union Gospel Mission this Saturday, as the Downtown Eastside institution rolls out its 80th annual Christmas Dinner program.

UGM is set to serve around 1,400 meals – roughly half the size of their usual Christmas meal.



The spokesperson for the institution, Nicole Mucci, tells NEWS 1130 this year’s Christmas meal comes at a challenging time for the Downtown Eastside.

“It’s been a pretty tough year, I think for everybody, as we’ve all experienced what this pandemic means to each of us in different ways,” said Mucci.

“And our community who is experiencing homelessness, and addiction, and poverty, has been hit particularly hard this year. If you add the pandemic on top of the opioid crisis — which is killing more people than we’ve ever seen — and the ongoing cold weather … We needed to have a day like today, and a weekend like this weekend, where we can celebrate hope and just look forward to, hopefully, 2021 brings good things.”

This year the UGM has been forced to work with a skeleton staff and volunteers due to COVID.

Christmas meals will be served in biodegradable to-go containers at staggered times. And meals will also be passed out to those waiting in line outside the UGM’s doors.

“We’re making sure that all of our staff and our limited volunteers are totally decked out in PPE,” said Mucci. “We’re just doing everything we can to keep people safe with masks and really making sure things are super clean, and helping ensure that people are social distancing, and just putting that care and thought and due process into every step we’re taking, which is at the end what’s going to keep people safe.”

The UGM will be serving 1,300 pounds of Turkey, 350 pounds of mashed potatoes, 160 litres of gravy, 350 pounds of vegetables, cranberry sauce and “some really delicious pies.”

“We have also put together a little goodie bag that has got some super warm socks, traditional Christmas orange, chocolate and a bottle of water,” added Mucci. “It’s all going to be handed out in easy-to-transport to-go bags for our guests just so they know that they’re loved and valued, and we care about them this Christmas, just like every other Christmas and every other day of the year.”