Each year, Union Gospel Mission (UGM) reaches out to those in need in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside by putting on a free community Summer BBQ, and this year’s event was a success.
Amidst the music and games on the hot summer day, 4,400 full BBQ meals were served at Oppenheimer Park and 2,000 attendees received large bottles of sunscreen.
A special carnival area, complete with a bouncy castle and cotton candy, had kids having fun all day long, and adults were able to participate in sporting and board games in an area of their own.
Nearly 200 volunteers came out to help UGM with setup, serve food, engage with the community, manage logistics, play with kids, clean up, keep everyone hydrated, tear town and more. Of the volunteers, 100 were from Concert Properties, a partner of UGM’s for a third straight year.
“I am so proud of our staff and volunteers for executing another seamless event and making connections with our community,” said Bill Mollard, President of Union Gospel Mission. “Putting on an event for thousands of people is a large undertaking anytime, but in the Downtown Eastside it can present some unique challenges, yet all the helpers did a great job, so the community could have fun and enjoy a stress-free day with ease.”
New this year, through the BBQ, UGM was able to provide employment for community members getting back on their feet. To help save food from landfills and minimize waste, recycling stations were setup throughout the park, manned by Mission Possible employees who made sure organics and recyclables ended up in the right bins. UGM was also able to hire for essential jobs that required more attention than day-of volunteers could give.
“For UGM, the food and the fun are a critical part of the day, but not the end of the story,” Mollard said. “The personal touch-points that community members can have with outreach workers that day are catalysts to critical life changes. It’s one more opportunity to help those struggling with homelessness and addiction to envision a more hopeful future while they are invited to take steps towards more intensive programming and support, like UGM’s alcohol and drug recovery program.”
This year, UGM celebrates 75 years of service in the community, and to mark the anniversary, two massive birthday cakes were cut and served. Attendees were able to leave their own birthday and unique message for display at the event and to be shared online.
UGM’s anniversary event for the entire community will take place later this year on September 26.