TRACEY TONG/METRO OTTAWA
With the high profile of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners at the Ottawa Mission, many people would be surprised to know that Easter is the downtown shelter’s busiest holiday of the year.
"Easter is the busiest holiday meal that we do," said Ottawa Mission spokeswoman Shirley Roy. "Families don’t always get together for Easter. At Thanksgiving and Christmas, people are more likely to get invited to dinner."
With 120 volunteers serving more than 2,400 dinners, the dining room was bustling yesterday. But even with 2,300 pounds of prime rib, 2,500 baked potatoes, 700 pounds of vegetables and 225 pecan pies, dinner at the Mission is about more than the food.
"It’s a chance to get out and interact with other people, relax and enjoy," said attendee Lloyd Tolander.
Shelter resident Daniel Brisson said the dinner is another chance to socialize. The event attracts far more people than on a regular day, he said, and having volunteer servers — as opposed to cafeteria-style meals served — tableclothes and centerpieces also make the day more special.
Larry Lawson called dinner at the Mission a cheerful alternative to spending Easter alone.
"People here are friendly and I’m seeing friends that I haven’t seen in a few years. It beats sitting home alone. It’s nice to have company around the holidays."
Ottawa’s Hazel Bowen returned as a volunteer yesterday after volunteering for the first time at Thanksgiving. "It’s a joy to be able to help serve a meal," she said.
Ottawa West-Nepean MPP Jim Watson said he first volunteered at the Ottawa Mission when he was a student at Carleton University. Now, he makes it a point to come out to help at the Mission’s holiday dinners.
"We’re very well off here in Ottawa, but there are pockets in the community where people aren’t doing so well and we can’t forget them," he said.