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UGM’s President Emeritus awarded The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal for 29 years of service on the downtown eastside

Vancouver, BC—On Sunday, July 1, 2012, Union Gospel Mission President Emeritus, Maurice McElrea will be awarded the Diamond Jubilee Medal, joining 60,000 Canadians who will be recognized by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Since retiring as President of UGM in 2008, Maurice’s tremendous contribution throughout his 29 years of service lives on in the continued work of UGM and in the countless changed lives of those who were once homeless, addicted and caught in a cycle of entrenched poverty.

McElrea came to Vancouver in 1960 as a young Irish immigrant in search of rumored gold in the city’s streets. Instead of gold, McElrea found himself on Vancouver’s streets without even hope to hold on to. “I had no money, no home, no family and no job,” he recalls. Utterly broken, McElrea wandered through UGM’s doors one night where he “enjoyed five bowls of soup mixed with tears.” What began as a lonely and hungry immigrant’s quest for sustenance led to a lifelong passion for assisting society’s most vulnerable.

Under McElrea’s leadership, UGM has grown significantly from a single facility to 9 facilities serving men, women, and children across Metro Vancouver and the City of Mission. Services have also expanded to include two Alcohol and Drug Recovery Programs, affordable housing, Education and Employment Services, preventative kid’s programs and programs for women in the community.

John Ricci, an UGM outreach worker, is just one of the many people inspired and encouraged by McElrea’s leadership. “You always felt valued and encouraged by Maurice,” says Ricci, who is a graduate of the UGM recovery program. “He would tell us ‘you guys are the heartbeat of the Mission.’ What we do is hard and sometimes draining work, so when you’re having a bad day, it’s words like that that keep your boat headed in the right direction. But that’s just the kind of leader that Maurice has always been.”

The celebration of McElrea’s significant and indelible service will take place at Canada Place on Canada Day, July 1 at 10 am. The legacy of hope which McElrea fostered continues today and his love for those who are hungry, hurting and homeless remains the bedrock on which UGM is built.

Union Gospel Mission has been feeding hope and changing the lives of men, women, and children for over 70 years. Through its 9 locations in Metro Vancouver and the city of Mission, 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


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