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UGM to serve thousands of meals during its annual early Christmas dinner—each meal represents a story

Vancouver, BC—As Union Gospel Mission gears up for its 72nd annual Christmas dinner celebration for the community on Saturday, December 8, the outreach team prepares to offer more than food. Steve, who came to UGM during the Thanksgiving celebration, is just one example of the tangible help that can be accessed by these special meals. After being turned away from numerous places, Steve came to the meal and got the help he needed to address the addiction gripping him, and to be reunited with his family in the valley, who had no idea of his whereabouts. 
Years prior, Steve had lived on the streets of the Downtown Eastside, active in his addiction, drinking and using whatever he could get his hands on. In 2010, when Steve’s partner became pregnant, the couple knew they had to turn their lives around. 
“We had to get out. We brought all our money—about $700 cash—to UGM for outreach workers to hold overnight. If we kept it, we knew it would be gone in the morning,” recalls Steve. “The next day, we grabbed the cash and hitchhiked out to the valley. From there, we slowly built our lives up and made a good family for our daughter.” 
Things were going well for the next few years, but in October, the temptations of the past started to weigh on Steve and he relapsed. He quickly got caught up in his old lifestyle, and drove himself to Vancouver. His car got impounded, and with no way home, Steve plummeted further into drugs. 
On Thanksgiving Day, after spending seven days in active addiction on the streets of Vancouver, Steve showed up at UGM again, exhausted, fearful and feeling ashamed. His family did not know where he was and Steve knew he desperately needed help. He wanted his clean life back, but alone and isolated, he couldn’t do it on his own. 
 
“I entered the doors of UGM, looked straight at Matt, and said, ‘Get me out of here,’” he says. 
UGM Chaplain Matt Hislop immediately brought Steve to his office and encouraged him to make amends with his family. When Steve made the difficult call home, his partner was in tears and wanted him back home. Matt arranged for a bus ticket to be purchased, and before the day was up, Steve was home with his family. 
“If it wasn’t for Matt helping me that day, I wouldn’t have made it out of there,” says Steve. “The other places I went to told me to come back after the holidays, but Matt helped me right when I needed it. It was such a busy time, but he looked after me. He made sure I got home.”
Today, Steve connects regularly with an addictions counselor and both he and his partner have support systems in place to help them maintain sobriety. “I was in a dark place, and now I’m starting to slowly get back to life. For the first time, I feel like I’ve broken the cycle of addiction. I know if it wasn’t for Matt’s help that day, I would still be down there.”
Event Summary:
What:
Christmas dinner for the Downtown Eastside community—over 3,000 meals to be served
When:
Saturday, December 8, 2012; 10:30am – 4:00pm (doors open at 10:00am)
Where:
Union Gospel Mission, 601 East Hastings (corner of Princess and Hastings)
* Note a smaller meal at UGM New Westminster: 33071 Railway Ave (doors open at noon)
Who:
UGM will serve over 3,000 Christmas meals for the DTES community. Last year just over 3,500 were served. 
Special Feature:
Clearly Contacts is once again partnering with UGM to donate and distribute eye glasses to those in need; Optometrists will be onsite to assist guests with 
more complex vision issues.
UGM’s Women and Families facility (beside 601 Hastings) will serve the same Christmas meal, but will have a different, more family-oriented program. Media  
can inquire about getting access to that facility. 
The Meal: 
150 turkeys (1,500 kilos)
1,500 lbs of mashed potatoes
900 lbs of vegetables
900 lbs of stuffing
80 gallons of gravy
260 litres of cranberry sauce
4,000 dinner rolls
700 cherry pies
400 litres of ice cream
Christmas Dinner Preparations: 
Turkey carving – Thursday, December 6, 8:45am – 11:00am (Volunteers from the Vancouver Community Colleges culinary arts program). The assembly line of cutting with the students in uniform makes great visuals 
General preparations: From Wednesday, December 5 to Friday, December 7, there are various event preparations occurring that are highly visual. Contact us for details. 
About UGM:
Union Gospel Mission has been feeding hope and changing the lives of men, women, and children for over 70 years. Through its 8 locations in Metro Vancouver, UGM provides counseling, education, safe housing, and alcohol and drug recovery 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 the lives of the broken, and offer dignity to those who feel cast aside. To find out more, visit www.ugm.ca.
26/11/2012
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