Press Release

Back to Media Centre

Media Inquiries

For all media inquiries, please contact Nadia Tchoumi, Manager – Media Relations and Communications, at 604 996 1417 or [email protected]

UGM Serves 80th Christmas Dinner Amidst Pandemic Protocols

(Vancouver) – As the stress of COVID-19 strains the Christmas spirit across the world, Lennie Thevarge is fighting the pandemic with a simple holiday truth he learned during the darkest moments of his life: there is always hope - especially during the holidays. Four years ago this December, during the lowest point of his addiction and struggling with homelessness, Lennie came to UGM for a warm meal and shelter.

“I was caught in a 25-year-old cycle of addiction that felt inescapable. I just didn’t want to be in addiction anymore,” Lennie shares. “I was homeless. I was hungry. I had truly felt like I hit bottom. And UGM was here—with shelter and a warm meal at Christmas time.”

Intergenerational trauma runs deep in Lennie’s family. Lennie’s father survived residential school, with the trauma and pain resulting in open alcohol addiction. Lennie’s first drink of alcohol was at seven years old, while he was attending residential school himself. His family eventually moved to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside—while Lennie was in his early teens—where the deep-rooted trauma and his lifelong struggle with alcoholism took on a life of its own.

“UGM fed me warm meals. They provided me with a safe, warm bed. It was while staying in the shelter that I began to think about recovery. If it hadn’t been for UGM’s support and encouragement, I’m not sure I would be here today to give back to others” says Lennie. “And in recovery, I’ve learned what’s really important to me: slowing down, enjoying this life and giving back to others. So they know there is hope, even during this pandemic.”

To that end, Lennie will be volunteering to help serve hundreds of Christmas meals on Saturday, Dec 12th. In line with UGM’s pandemic plan, the organization has completely changed how it will host its Christmas 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 1400 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
  • Masks will be available to guests who request one at our reception, along with hand sanitizer
  • Sanitization procedures are stepped up to keep guests, residents and staff safe
  • Health recommendations followed.
  • More COVID-19 protocols found here.

“This second surge of COVID-19, the cold weather and the continued Opioid epidemic tells us that people need a spark of hope.” says UGM’s Nicole Mucci. “We know, through stories like Lennie’s, that miracles can begin with a meal - even if that meal has to be served to-go this Christmas.”


Date:             Saturday, December 12th 2020
Time:            Media wishing to attend are asked to arrive no later than 10:30am
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!
  • Christmas 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


  • 1300 lbs of Turkey
  • 350 lbs Mashed Potatoes
  • 150 l Gravy
  • 3500 lbs Vegetables
  • Cranberry sauce
  • 300 Pies

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

Union Gospel Mission has been feeding hope and changing the lives of men, women, youth, and children for 80 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


Back to Media Centre