After 61 years of serving meals and mentoring those in need at the Vancouver Union Gospel Mission (UGM), 82-year-old Jack Summerfield is finally ready to retire from his volunteer job.
It was the 1950s when Summerfield began volunteering at the UGM, and over the decades, he has seen the need for the UGM grow — from alcohol to drug addiction, and now to the fentanyl crisis.
“When I started, the men were much older that came into the Mission. They’re much younger today, down to the late teens. In those days, they were in their 40s and 50s,” Summerfield told Global News.
He volunteers at the UGM four days a week, and has helped thousands of people, including John Ricci, a recovering addict who credits Summerfield with changing his life.
“He was actually the first person to introduce me to a new way of life here at the Mission,” Ricci said. “He kind of mentored me through the tough times of going through those changes that a person who’s wrapped in addiction goes through.”
But Summerfield says he’s received more from his volunteer work than what he’s given in service — “It’s a massive encouragement to me to see men’s lives turn around,” Summerfield said.
“I really found it a privilege to come alongside people who are hungry and hurting and homeless.”
Thursday was Summerfield’s last day at the UGM. After serving his last meal — one of about 10 million over the years — he was celebrated with a round of applause and a rendition of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.”
“Union Gospel Mission has really been my life,” Summerfield said.
While the 82-year-old is hanging up his hat, he says he won’t be gone for good — volunteering is in his blood.
—With files from Jennifer Palma