Peter Lacey has been living at the Ottawa Mission for the past two years.
And while he already eats almost all of his meals at the shelter, he was excited for yesterday’s annual community Thanksgiving dinner.
“It’s a special time when you can get everyone together,” he said. “I see people smiling and socializing and enjoying their meals.
“Everyone is here and everyone is getting along. That’s why this day is so special. It’s like we’re all one family.”
Margaret Susie King lives alone, and comes to the mission once or twice a year for holiday meals.
“(Thanksgiving) is a time when people should have company,” she said.
The shelter served 2,678 meals yesterday, said shelter spokeswoman Shirley Roy.
While generally, the mission has seen more people coming for meals in the past year, Thanksgiving dinner isn’t just about need.
“People are coming because they’re hungry, but they want to share their meal with others. It’s a festive atmosphere,” Roy said.
As usual, the meal wouldn’t be possible without the 110 volunteers who came out yesterday, Roy said.
Several years ago, Ottawa resident Lindsay Hepburn was on the brink of retirement and was looking for a way to give back to the community.
Hepburn began volunteering at the mission’s special events and in the kitchen on Tuesday mornings.
“It’s a joy to see people in need getting fed,” he said. “And you can tell the vast majority of these people are very appreciative.”
Volunteering at holiday meals has become tradition for Ottawa police, said Sgt. Jim Elves. This year, about a dozen officers participated.
“This is a chance for us to informally talk to some of the people, he said. “It humanizes us, and they really appreciate it.”
Insp. Alain Bernard said, “For me, I think this sets the tone for this time of year, of giving back.”