Stirling Olive used to live at the Ottawa Mission.

He might have his own place now, but wouldn’t have missed yesterday’s community Easter dinner.

“I think this is fantastic,” said Olive. “It’s a great event, and they do a great job.”

New and familiar faces, young and old, came out literally in droves for the shelter’s biggest holiday meal of the year.

“We’re seeing more kids, more families,” said Diane Morrison, executive director of the Ottawa Mission. “We see old faces of people that had gotten on their feet.

“People can’t afford Easter this year.”

And it’s not just Easter — the Mission is seeing more people coming for meals, job training and groceries. “We’re certainly seeing the effects of the downturn,” Morrison said.

“Easter dinner tends to be our busiest one,” said the Mission’s manager of volunteer services Meghan Bartolo. “The weather is nice and the clients are more likely to come here and less likely to be invited home than Christmas.”

While meals are usually served cafeteria-style, more than 125 volunteers were on hand yesterday to serve prime rib, veggies, pie and to top up glasses at decorated tables. While they waited for seats, clients sipped coffee and tea in the chapel.

“We try to make it as nice as possible for them,” said Bartolo.

The shelter, which served more than 2,600 meals over six hours, wouldn’t have been possible without volunteers.

Donning an apron yesterday, Mayor Larry O’Brien said he volunteers at every dinner he’s asked to.

Police Insp. Mike Flanagan had the day off yesterday, but happily sacrificed time off for beverage duty.

“It’s something I look forward to,” said Flanagan, who has been volunteering for five years.

Aside from helping the less fortunate, Flanagan said the interaction breaks down barriers between police and the shelter’s clientele. “It lets them see the person behind the badge,” he said.

While his volunteer gig took away from family time, Flanagan said that’s not something that will continue for long.

When his son, Declan, gets older, he’ll bring him along to help, he said.

“It is a great way of getting involved in the community,” said longtime volunteer Brenda McIntyre.

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