‘A literal tonne of turkey’: UGM serves Christmas dinner by the thousands

Volunteers dish up turkey and mashed potatoes for an estimated 2,500 to 3,000 people. Global News

Thousands of people turned out to Vancouver’s Union Gospel Mission (UGM) on Saturday for the charity’s annual Christmas dinner.

UGM spokesperson Jeremy Hunka said a team of more than 275 volunteers spent a week preparing for the estimated 2,500 to 3,000 guests.

READ MORE: City of Vancouver extends warming centre operations amid cold snap

“We have a literal tonne of turkey, and then we have close to 1,000 pounds of mashed potatoes, 600 pies — the list goes on and on,” Hunka said.

“We’re giving Christmas dinner to people who may otherwise not get a Christmas celebration. So this is actually momentous.”

Global BC’s Michael Newman, Paul Haysom, Neetu Garcha and CKNW\’s Lynda Steele help serve Christmas dinner at the UGM. Michael Newman / Global News

Along with Global News and CKNW personalities like Paul Haysom and Lynda Steele, Hunka said many of the volunteers were themselves people who had transitioned out of life on the streets, thanks to a connection with UGM services and programs.

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“There’s a lot of people who are serving today, helping us volunteer who at one point were homeless,” Hunka said. “They were sleeping under a bridge, they were in an alley; there were women who were in the Downtown Eastside with nowhere else to go.”

READ MORE: Union Gospel Mission dishes up 3,000 meals for annual Christmas dinner

“And now, today, after getting help at UGM they’re giving back.”

Saturday’s meal was also the end of an era, according to the UGM’s Nicole Mucci.

That’s because it will be the last Christmas dinner served in the 37-year-old building for women and families at 616 Codova.

WATCH: UGM Annual Christmas Dinner (Dec. 2016)

Click to play video: 'UGM Annual Christmas Dinner' UGM Annual Christmas Dinner
UGM Annual Christmas Dinner – Dec 10, 2016

The structure is being demolished to make way for a new, larger, seven-storey replacement.

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“The need in our community for more support for women and families is staggering,” Mucci said. “A recent report came out that over 80 per cent of the families that are living down here are living below the poverty line.”

“So a new expansion of our women and families building will really help serve that need.”

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