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Pandemic can’t stop Vancouver shelter from serving up 80th Christmas dinner

Click to play video: 'The COVID-19 2nd wave is making it especially difficult for the homeless' The COVID-19 2nd wave is making it especially difficult for the homeless
The COVID-19 2nd wave is making it especially difficult for the homeless – Nov 18, 2020

A Vancouver charity is serving its annual Christmas lunch and dinner to nearly 1,400 people this weekend, but COVID-19 restrictions mean turkey and vegetarian options will be handed out in biodegradable to-go containers.

Nicole Mucci, spokeswoman for the Union Gospel Mission, says last year about 3,000 people ate Christmas meals at six locations in and around Vancouver on a single day.

She says they will be served at three places over four days this year to comply with physical distancing measures.

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Mucci says about 100 volunteers and staff usually prepare and serve meals to the homeless and underhoused, but fewer people are available to help during COVID-19.

She says the mission has been a mainstay in Vancouver’s impoverished Downtown Eastside for 80 years and served its first Christmas dinner to people in the neighbourhood on Dec. 25, 1940.

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Mucci says the charity hopes to resume its large celebration with a live band at its main location next year, but for now is trying to meet the needs of as many people as possible.

“We’re serving the really delicious turkey dinner with some goodies like pie and chocolate,” she says, adding socks, oranges and water are also being handed out.

Mucci says staff and volunteers are wearing personal protective equipment while serving many new people this year.

“There are a lot of new faces, in part due to the pandemic and the ongoing opioids crisis, and the affordability crisis,” she says.

“There is a pandemic, but we’re still finding ways to celebrate.”

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