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UGM To Serve 2500 Christmas Meals, Make Way For Expansion

(Vancouver) - Emily Surrette usually spent Christmas in crisis. Alone, cold, and homeless, the BC woman survived the holidays both hungry and huddling in an alley.

“It was horrible…I would hide behind the church behind a blanket just curled up trying to keep warm,” says the 34-year-old. “I remember it would be raining and snowing and so cold, and you just had nowhere to go.”

Emily’s struggles began when she was just a child. After enduring family violence and trauma, Emily was expected to fend for herself at just 12-years-old. Without a strong consistent role model, she fell into drugs as a way to escape reality, eventually turning to escort work in order to make money. Repeated exposure to violence, combined with the sudden loss of two family members, caused Emily’s drug use to spiral further out of control. She found herself homeless until, just before Christmas, she was admitted to hospital and referred to UGM’s The Sanctuary, a stabilization program for women. That’s when ‘everything changed’.

“There were people who actually cared,” she says. “It was like a spa to me because I wasn’t on the street…I was like ‘holy smokes’ I don’t have to worry. Now I can start thinking, ‘what am I going to do next?’”

Four years later, Emily is housed, stable, and kicking off the Christmas season by volunteering at UGM, where she’ll help serve more than 2500 Christmas Dinners to those in need on December 8th.

The meal will be the last dinner served at UGM’s current Women and Families Centre at 616 East Cordova. The 37-year-old structure will soon be decommissioned, demolished, and rebuilt into a 7-story New Women and Families Centre – expected to help thousands of women like Emily over the coming decades.

“I don’t know where I’d be without UGM or that building,” says Emily.

“Emily’s ongoing triumph over homelessness and addiction is a path we hope thousands will follow,” says UGM President Bill Mollard. “This meal could mark a turning point for others this Christmas, who will receive help this holiday, connect to our life-saving programs, and find future support as we expand.”


Date: Saturday, December 8th
Time: Meals served 10:30 AM – 4:30 PM
• Main location: 601 East Hastings, Vancouver (@ Princess)
• Secondary locations: Women and Families Centre 616 East Cordova
UGM New Westminster: 658 Clarkson Street (doors in New West open at noon)
• Note: Volunteers will be carving turkey in preparation on Thursday, December 6th from 9:30-10:30am at UGM’s Hastings location. Media are welcome to attend but asked to RSVP to Nicole Mucci at [email protected]


• 2200 lbs. of turkey
• 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 cherry pies
• 400 litres of ice cream


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

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


Union Gospel Mission has been feeding hope and changing lives of men, women, youth, and children for more than 77 years. Through its seven locations in Metro Vancouver and the city of Mission, UGM provides emergency shelter, meals, outreach, career development counselling, case management, education, safe and affordable housing, addiction recovery, stabilization for moms and babies, afterschool supports for families, 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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