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Downtown Eastside Survivor Creates Cambodian Charity, Returns to Help at Thanksgiving

Vancouver, B.C. — Kevin Knight never dreamed he would be standing in a Downtown Eastside food line just before Thanksgiving. But after decades of success as a high-paid high-rise tradesman, there he was, wheeling a shopping cart down the street.

“It was hopelessness,” says the 56-year-old. “I used to come to UGM for meals and would stand aside against the wall and hide my face so nobody would see me…”

Kevin grew up as a brilliant student and athlete. He excelled in construction as an adult, making big money as a foreman on high-rise projects in Vancouver. But his life spiralled downward after experimentation with drugs and alcohol led to an addiction that he seemed powerless to overcome. He lost his jobs and his apartment. After falling behind on rent for his cockroach infested SRO, Kevin found himself on the brink of homelessness, breaking down in tears.

“I didn’t know how to get out of it. I had no idea,” says Kevin. “I was a straight ‘A’ student who normally had all the answers. But I was at a point where I didn’t even know how to keep a roof over my head.”

Thankfully, Kevin heard of UGM’s Alcohol and Drug Recovery Program while visiting UGM for a meal, and that’s where things “changed instantly”. Now more than 10 years sober, Kevin operates a Cambodian NGO called Manna4Life, where he’s helped build 93 homes and provide schooling for more than 160 children. Married and recently celebrating the second birthday of his daughter, Kevin will help serve up to 3,000 meals to those in need on Thanksgiving Monday, hoping to inspire others to follow his footsteps.

“I want to educate the public that there are a lot of people in the Downtown Eastside who can really contribute to society, given the opportunity to get help. When you see the guy walking down Hastings– dirty­ and selling his belongings–that was me.”

“It’s incredible to see how a simple meal can lead to miracles,” says UGM’s Jeremy Hunka. “This Thanksgiving, thousands of others will have a chance to transform their lives through UGM, just like Kevin.”


Date:  Monday, October 8th, 2018
Time: Meals served 10:30 AM – 4:30 PM
Where:  Main location: 601 East Hastings, Vancouver (@ Princess Avenue)
Secondary locations: Women and Families Centre: 616 East Cordova;
UGM New Westminster: 658 Clarkson Street (doors open at noon)

Note: Volunteers will be carving turkey in preparation on Saturday, October 6th, from 9am-11am. Media are welcome to attend. Please RSVP to Jeremy Hunka.


  • 2200 lbs. of turkey (the equivalent of 130 turkeys)
  • 800 lbs. of mashed potatoes
  • 700 lbs. of vegetables
  • 800 lbs. of stuffing
  • 300 litres of gravy
  • 260 litres of cranberry sauce
  • 3900 dinner rolls (375 dozen)
  • 600 pumpkin pies
  • 400 litres of ice cream


Jeremy Hunka
Union Gospel Mission
Cell: (604) 996-1417
[email protected]


Union Gospel Mission has been feeding hope and changing lives of men, women, youth, and children for more than 75 years. Through its seven locations in Metro Vancouver and the city of Mission, UGM provides emergency shelter, meals, outreach, career development counselling, education, safe and affordable housing, addiction recovery, and much more to those struggling with poverty, homelessness and addiction. The heart of the mission is to demonstrate God’s transforming love, ease the burden of the most vulnerable, rebuild lives and offer dignity to those who feel cast aside. To learn more, visit


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