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Union Gospel Mission to serve over 3,000 meals at 74th annual Christmas Dinner



Vancouver, BC—On Saturday, December 6, 2014, Laura* and her newborn baby will be one of the 3,000+ diverse faces at UGM’s 74th annual Christmas dinner for the Downtown Eastside. Just weeks ago, Laura and her one-month old baby were in a grim situation, facing apprehension by social services, when Hail Mary call to UGM changed everything. Laura and her newborn were instead admitted into UGM’s sanctuary program, which provides housing and support to women needing recovery.


Laura will join the many families and women receiving a Christmas meal among friends at UGM’s Women and Families Centre, located just behind the central 601 Hastings location. Both sites, as well as the New Westminster UGM, will be open to the community all day, for a traditional Christmas meal with a healthy helping of holiday cheer, served by 250 volunteers. The Women & Families location will be more child-friendly and program-focused, but all three will support those without the resources to host their own dinners.


“UGM’s Christmas dinner is about more than just spreading the holiday spirit and ensuring those in need receive a warm, nutritious meal,” explains Bruce Curtiss, Manager of Hastings Chaplaincy and Outreach. “For those facing homelessness and poverty, the meal is an opportunity to access UGM’s emergency services as well as a moment to reflect and possibly begin a process of recovery.”


While she came through different circumstances, Laura is just one of the many people who have come to UGM for recovery support and who will benefit from UGM’s offering of life-saving services including meals and shelter.


Laura and her baby are part of UGM’s newest initiative, the Sanctuary Program. This consists of two stabilization programs for women seeking a recovery-centered life. The first program, opened in June 2014, provides a safe, abstinence-based, live-in environment for women. It bridges the critical gap between detox and recovery, where four out of five women relapse, as well as the equally critical gap between recovery and stable housing. This November, UGM opened the stabilization program specifically for women with infants, lovingly referred to by staff as the “moms and babes” wing.


Until November, if a new mother was struggling with addiction but seeking recovery help, her options were extremely limited. Most often she had her baby apprehended. Through close collaboration with the Fir Square Combined Maternity Care Unit at BC Women’s Hospital, UGM has begun admitting women with newborns who are seeking a recovery-focused life. By working with community organizations and 24-hour staff support and care, the Sanctuary Program meets a dire need and helps significantly increase the chance that moms will flourish and maintain care of their child. For Laura, what would have undoubtedly been an anguished Christmas; thanks to the Sanctuary, will be a celebration of life, hope and family.



Date:               Saturday, December 6, 2014

Time:              10:30am – 4:30pm (doors open at 10:00am)

Locations:       UGM’s Main Facility - 601 East Hastings (corner of Princess and Hastings)

UGM’s Women & Families Centre – 616 East Cordova

UGM New Westminster – 658 Clarkson St. (doors open at noon)


The Meal:

  • 2,800 lbs of turkey (roughly 190 turkeys)
  • 800 lbs of mashed potatoes
  • 700 lbs of vegetables
  • 800 lbs of stuffing
  • 300 litres of gravy
  • 180 litres of cranberry sauce
  • 4,000 dinner rolls
  • 675 cherry pies
  • 400 litres of ice cream


Union Gospel Mission has been feeding hope and changing lives of men, women, youth, and children for over 70 years. Through its 7 locations in Metro Vancouver and the city of Mission, UGM provides counselling, 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 learn more, visit


*Laura is not her real name

*Laura will not be identified to the media, but Hilena will be available to share her story.




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