With Thanksgiving around the corner, the Union Gospel Mission (UGM) is gearing for a busy long weekend, which includes serving serving 3,000 meals to those in need.
But for volunteers like Tim K, who will be on the front lines helping out, the one-day event represents much more than just turkey and stuffing.
“I want to reach people this Thanksgiving who may be professionals, but are afraid to ask for help and show them they’re not alone,” he said.
Tim knows that feeling first-hand.
He’s been with UGM for more than two years, but before that it seemed the 52-year-old’s life was about as far away from the Downtown Eastside outreach facility as one could be.
Outwardly, Tim was the epitome of success. Surrounded by a loving family, he developed a successful financial career and built his own thriving business in Abbotsford.
But the long hours and pressure of work eventually took their toll, and Tim turned to alcohol to cope.
Within five years he’d lost everything and wound up homeless in English Bay, where he slept on the beach for two weeks.
“I was living with the shirt on my back and a duffle bag,” he said. “My intention was to come to Vancouver and either kill myself or drink myself to death – I called it my ‘death under instalment plan.’ ”
One night, Tim’s desperation reached a tipping point and he began “wandering aimlessly,” only to wind up in the Downtown Eastside, staring up at the UGM’s illuminated sign.
Deciding to seek shelter at the UGM that night, Tim soon learned about UGM’s Alcohol and Drug Recovery program.
Now more than two years sober and employed on UGM’s maintenance team, Tim makes sure the UGM sign is always illuminated, saying it might save someone else’s life too – especially this time of year.
With homeless at an all-time high in Metro Vancouver, UGM President Bill Mollard said the work the mission does is more important than ever.
And on Monday, October 9, UGM will serve over 2500 pounds of turkey (the equivalent of 130 turkeys), 800 pounds of mashed potatoes, and 600 pumpkin pies.
“Thousands of people will enter our doors this Thanksgiving who – like Tim – can turn their lives around and rediscover hope,” Mollard said.