WINNIPEG - Despite concern that limited access at shelters and food banks would lead to fewer people getting fed, an outreach to Winnipeg’s less fortunate says, with health protocols in place and some creative planning, they’ll still serve hundreds of guests this Thanksgiving, as they’ve done for years. A managing spokesperson for the Union Gospel Mission on Princess St. tells the Manitoba Post that while many Manitobans are preparing meals to go, its work to abide by provincial regulations has enabled them to keep their doors open since March. The organization plans to have about five sittings when they serve their meal Saturday afternoon.
Administrators say each meal will serve 40 people each, with a lineup outside, and a separate door out of the building to ensure the line flows smoothly. Guests are expected to be in and out in about 40 minutes to ensure there’s at least 10 to 15 minutes available for a thorough cleaning. “We’ll have all hands to the pump to make sure we do a good job,” the spokesperson notes. “It’s a beautiful thing when you see people serving.”
UGM says while the dining room had seating for just over 120 people, since COVID-19 arrived in the province in March, they’ve opened up their chapel to accommodate 40-48 guests at a time and ensure physical distancing, while servers wear masks and gloves, and hand wash and sanitize frequently between meals. UGM will also prepare meals to go for those unable to making it in between 11 and 1.
Beginning in June, facilities such as UGM’s were permitted to host multiple groups of 50, with a maximum indoor capacity of 30 per cent of their licensed “assembly occupancy load.”
While they’re asking for frozen vegetables for the meal along with monetary donations and regularly-scheduled volunteers, UGM staff say their greatest necessities transcend physical health and resources. Started in 1933, UGM has provided services to Winnipeggers facing hardship through outreach, supports for children and families, adult education, and addictions programs. “There’s a lot of need,” one staff member points out. “Certainly, prayer is what we’d like to bring into focus and attention all year. We see the fruit of that.”
In lieu of their annual Thanksgiving fundraising banquet, which in previous years was held a few days after the holiday and open to the public, the mission will livestream a special professionally-produced film telling stories of recovery and hope. The “virtual banquet” will premiere on YouTube at 7 next week Saturday, October 17, with some participants and groups planning to host friends, family, and those without internet to safe "watch parties" that evening.
As we reflect on the many reasons we have to be grateful as Manitobans, the Manitoba Post wishes you a safe and happy Thanksgiving.