Chris is a tall man with kind eyes and an easy smile. He eats most of his meals at Union Gospel Mission Twin Cities, a Christian ministry that helps people experiencing homelessness, poverty and addiction. He enjoys the companionship and conversation that comes from eating meals at a big table amongst friends. He enjoys the optimism it gives him for a better tomorrow.
“The meals here mean a chance for hope,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about how you’re going to survive.”
Survival is at the forefront of the minds of many of the men, women and children visiting or taking shelter at Union Gospel Mission. Last year, the Mission served 391,000 meals through its shelters, youth programs, and hunger outreach programs.
Janice Kanjanavivitch, general manager of food services at the Mission agrees that every meal served brings hope, but a meal at the Mission is not just about food — it’s often the first step toward a new life.
“Here at the Mission, a hot meal and a warm bed is not the end goal, but the springboard that leads to honest discussions of the challenges people face, so we can guide them into our programs with the goal of achieving self-sufficiency,” she said.
The Mission will distribute approximately 10,500 Thanksgiving grocery bags with all the fixings to military families, people struggling with mental illness, low-income housing residences, and through a widespread community outreach effort. The Mission also provides special holiday midday meals on Thanksgiving and Christmas at its Men’s Campus, complete with traditional holiday foods, linens, host seating and table service. Altogether, the Mission will serve around 2,000 families and individuals on Thanksgiving Day.
Kanjanavivitch relies on 800 volunteers in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving to help make the meals happen. That includes registering people for food bags, food pickups, checking and sorting donated food boxes, and serving and distributing food the entire week of Thanksgiving.
“Our main needs are for more volunteer coverage and donations that can be used toward meals and shelter,” she said. “And we always covet our supporters’ prayers, for both our students and staff.”
Union Gospel Mission is one of nearly 1,000 partners Second Harvest Heartland works with to reach our neighbors living with hunger. Many of our agency partners see an increased need during the holidays. Give the gift of dinner this holiday season, volunteer, or join us in a conversation about hunger.