Christmas dinner brightens spirits at Ottawa Mission

Volunteers cooked up and served more than a tonne of turkey and loads of good cheer at Ottawa Mission's holiday feast Sunday.
Kitchen staff and volunteers at the Ottawa Mission pitched in to make this year's Christmas Feast a success.

Christmas came early for some people in Ottawa Sunday afternoon as the Ottawa Mission — bolstered by dozens of volunteers — served up turkey dinner for guests.

The mission's kitchen staff and volunteers cooked a metric tonne of turkey, 50 gallons of gravy, 200 kilograms of mashed potatoes, 180 kg of carrots and green beans, and several hundred dinner rolls.

As she has done for four years running, Josse Cowley came up with 3,000 cupcakes for dessert. In previous years Cowley baked them herself, but this season she had to enlist the help of volunteer bakers around the city to make it happen again.

"I couldn't do it on my own so I created a Facebook page and reached out to the general public and we got a lot of good feedback and help," she said.

Shirley Michel, a regular at the Ottawa Mission, sent her compliments to the chefs and volunteers. 

"It's really nice actually, I didn't have to wait long and I'm enjoying it so far," she said. "I'm loving it."

For Lise Lachapel, who lives on barely $1,000 a month from her pension, the Christmas feast is one less meal she has to worry about.

"Every month I go to the food bank and bring some food home, everyday," she said. "Monday to Sunday I come eat all over the place, Shepherds of Good Hope, the church and everything."

Other people come for the dinner, not so much for financial reasons, but because they enjoy the company, said the Ottawa Mission's executive director, Diane Morrison.

"They're often alone, they're in rooming houses, so not just the homeless," Morrison said. "They have the money to buy a turkey, but they come in here, they have community and it's good."

Sadly, however, Morrison said the number of people permanently living at the mission has grown and more than 60 have taken up residence there for the past six years.

"I think one of the reasons that there are more people coming in here is that there is a real shortage in housing," said Morrison. "So we really are looking at trying to get a building so that we can help get people out of here and into a better place to live."

Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau volunteered his time to serve up juice and some holiday spirit.

"It's a different environment, it's a positive environment," said Bordeleau. "Everyone's in a great mood and we're having great conversations."