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Union Gospel Mission to serve 3,000 Thanksgiving Meals

Vancouver, B.C. — Few have reason to celebrate this Thanksgiving like Jenna Woytiuk. Recently homeless and living in the woods near Squamish, the 30-year-old is now housed, employed and about to celebrate Thanksgiving by helping others whose struggle she knows all too well.

“Homelessness was the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced,” she says. “I was just scared for my life, that nothing would get better. There was no hope inside me. I was in a dark tunnel and there was no end to it. I didn’t know that I would get out of it.”

Jenna grew up as an athlete, exceling in alpine skiing disciplines like super-G, giant slalom and slalom in BC and Saskatchewan. But drugs and alcohol led her into a downward spiral. Jenna cut class, lost jobs and even sold her skis to buy drugs. As life careened out of control, Jenna suffered physical abuse, sexual abuse and eventually attempted suicide after losing her apartment. Last fall, she found herself seeking refuge at a homeless camp near Squamish for 10 days – where she lived in fear – before entering detox. There, she heard about UGM’s The Sanctuary – a safe refuge for women in the Downtown Eastside. Jenna moved in almost immediately.

“I was so happy. I cried the whole day I got there,” says Jenna. “I was so excited and everyone was like, we’re going to help you now. You’re safe here…I don’t know where I would be without UGM and I’m really looking forward to returning the favour this Thanksgiving.”

Eleven months clean and sober, Jenna is now a part-time cook at UGM where she will help serve Thanksgiving Dinner on October 10th.  She hopes her work this holiday will inspire others on the street to reach out for help this holiday.

 “Thousands of people will enter our doors this Thanksgiving who – like Jenna did – feel unsafe and forgotten,” says UGM President Bill Mollard. “Once they come and find care, we hope they’ll connect to our life-changing programs.”


Date:                        Monday, October 10, 2016
Time:                        Meals served 10:30 AM – 4:30 PM
Where:                     Main location: 601 East Hastings, Vancouver

Editor’s Note:   Media are welcome to attend UGM on Saturday, October 8th, as volunteers prepare for the big feast by carving 2500 lbs of turkey (9:30 – 10:30 AM). Please RSVP to Jeremy Hunka for this photo availability.


  • 2500 lbs. of turkey (the equivalent of 130 turkeys)
  • 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 pumpkin pies
  • 400 litres of ice cream
  • Chocolate treats for 3500 people, donated by Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory



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


Union Gospel Mission has been feeding hope and changing lives of men, women, youth, and children for 75 years. Through its seven locations in Metro Vancouver and the city of Mission, UGM provides emergency shelter, meals, career development counselling, education, safe housing and addiction 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 lives and offer dignity to those who feel cast aside. To learn more, visit



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