It’s a Thanksgiving tradition that started 27 years ago with 42 people in Edmonton. Now, an annual event is providing a free, warm meal to upwards of 1,000 people this long weekend.
The Millbourne Laundromat Thanksgiving dinner was served on Monday at the Leefield Community Hall in south Edmonton.
Volunteers and community partners have been working since Saturday to prepare 40 turkeys and all the fixings to feed hundreds of hungry Edmontonians, many of whom are experiencing homelessness.
“It’s not just important — it’s absolutely mandatory,” said Allan Andkilde, who was enjoying his meal, complete with pumpkin pie for dessert.
“I have no choice but to go out to places like this so that I can have food. Seventy-five per cent of my income goes to rent because I can’t get low-income housing.”
While recent numbers from Homeward Trust suggest the number of people who reported experiencing homelessness in Edmonton has dropped, the number of people living rough is apparent. Tent cities have been popping up in locations throughout Edmonton — not just in the inner city.
Andkilde sees it firsthand every day.
“I’ve seen a lot of people that have had a lot of hard stuff thrown at them, some people that make my story look like nothing but a fairy tale,” he said.
“They’ve gotten to a point that they’ve been defeated so many times that they’ve completely resigned themselves of the fact that they are worthless garbage, not fit for anything or anyone. It is possibly the most incredibly sad thing you could possibly see that a human being is just nothing.”
That’s why events like Monday’s Thanksgiving dinner are so important, Andkilde said. It’s a sentiment shared by many in the crowd.
“I think it’s a great thing for the people in the community because many of them don’t have homes or family to go to where they can share a Thanksgiving meal,” said Teri Lusty, who comes for the meal every few years.
“This is like one big family for them. A lot of these people that come here, they know one another so it’s a good gathering place for Thanksgiving.”
Shirley Tripp started the dinner with her husband, Don, 27 years ago. They are the original owners of the Millbourne Laundromat. They sold the business a few years ago and the new owners have taken over hosting the meal.
“I miss this. Every single year, I cannot miss out on coming around to see who we know still. I am just so happy that it’s continuing,” Shirley said. “There’s no way I can believe it’s turned out to be this after this many years. It’s unbelievable.”
Over the years, the event has grown to be much more than a meal; it’s a gathering place for the entire community.