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COVID-19 Survivor Spreads Hope at UGM Thanksgiving Meal

(Vancouver) – Jennifer Allan knows a thing or two about fighting for her life. After overcoming homelessness, addiction, and fleeing the survival sex trade in 2013, Jennifer faced a new and unfamiliar adversary this fall when she was diagnosed with COVID-19. Now, over one week out of quarantine and officially recovered, the 43-year old woman is determined to continue giving back to the Downtown Eastside community she deeply loves, during a Thanksgiving celebration unlike any we’ve served before.

“I remember what it was like to walk the streets and starve during the holidays. I just felt so forgotten,” Jennifer shares. “No one should feel that way - and meals like Thanksgiving at UGM, remind people they matter. That they are loved....”

A child of the 60s scoop, Jennifer spent most of her early years with a foster family, and had limited access to her First Nations roots. Though she felt loved and protected, the culture clash left Jennifer ill-equipped for the overt racism, trauma, and abuse she would experience that eventually culminated in a drug and alcohol addiction and a life in survival sex work. Through the love of outreach workers at places like UGM, Jennifer began to see a brighter future and seek recovery - both from her addiction, and her trauma. Through it all, her servant heart has led to her serving and advocating for others living with those same struggles. Today, she is living in UGM’s transitional housing, and has overcome a recent fight with COVID-19.

“If it wasn’t for the support I received at UGM while recovering from COVID-19, I don’t know if I’d be alive,” says Jennifer. “That’s why I’m here today - because our community needs to know that this virus is no joke and getting tested (if symptomatic) could save their life. And the people down here matter. They deserve a fighting chance.” 

Jennifer will be on hand Thanksgiving weekend as UGM serves hundreds of meals to those who may otherwise go without Thanksgiving. In line with UGM’s pandemic plan, the organization has completely changed how it will host its Thanksgiving meals in order to safeguard against COVID-19. Pandemic protocols include but are not limited to:

  • A limited number of staff, wearing personal protective equipment, will serve meals ‘to go’ out the door, rather than gathering hundreds of people inside its dining hall
  • Over 1600 meals to go will be served over the course of several days across multiple locations  - rather than serving up to 3,000 meals on one day at our main building
  • Whereas typical major meal events require more than 100 volunteers and dozens more staff, only a handful of staff and volunteers will be present at one time
  • Social distancing will be followed to ensure safety
  • Sanitizer will be available, as will masks to anyone who requests a mask at 601 reception
  • Sanitization procedures are stepped up to keep guests, residents and staff safe
  • Health recommendations followed 

“As the pandemic continues, we are adapting and adjusting how we do things to continuously add touches of hope, dignity, and compassion in all aspects,” says UGM’s Nicole Mucci. “Even though this is the bleakest of times, this simple Thanksgiving meal will remind people that they are loved and not forgotten, that there’s hope on the horizon, and they have something to celebrate. Jennifer is proof that, with support, our community can overcome and lives will change for the better.”

MEDIA EVENT DETAILS

Date:             Saturday, October 10th 2020
Time:            Media wishing to attend are asked to arrive no later than 10:15am
Where:         601 East Hastings, Vancouver (@ Princess), following pandemic safety protocols including:

  • Please RSVP to [email protected] before arriving
  • Upon arrival to 601 E Hastings, please do not enter the UGM building. Instead, please set up on the West side of Princess Street, near the picnic tables, where interviews will be conducted. We’ll be there to greet you! 
  • Thanksgiving Meals will be served ‘to go’ through the drop-in doors. We respectfully ask you to adhere to social distancing recommendations to protect and respect our guests

THE MEAL

  • 1200 lbs of Turkey
  • 400 lbs Mashed Potatoes
  • 160 l Gravy 
  • 400 lbs Vegetables
  • Cranberry sauce
  • 285 Pies

CONTACT
Nicole Mucci
Media Communications, Union Gospel Mission
Cell: (778) 999-3985
[email protected] 

ABOUT UNION GOSPEL MISSION
Union Gospel Mission has been feeding hope and changing the 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 www.ugm.ca.

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