Hamilton

Despite challenges, Good Shepherd serves up hundreds of Thanksgiving meals

Good Shepherd provided hundreds of Thanksgiving meals to community members on Monday, in an annual tradition it said it was determined to continue in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘Our main focus has always been to provide food,’ Daryl Chezzi says

Providing a Thanksgiving meal for community members has become an annual holiday tradition for Good Shepherd. (Submitted by Dave Butler )

Good Shepherd provided hundreds of Thanksgiving meals to community members on Monday, in an annual tradition it said it was determined to continue in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Daryl Chezzi, supervisor of shelter services at Good Shepherd, said they prepared 400 meals this year, and "nothing goes to waste."

"Our main focus has always been to provide food. It brings people together, it's a great social tool, it's a necessary tool," Chezzi told CBC Hamilton.

"We still have a lot of people, the working poor, people on social assistance [who are] not receiving enough money to pay for their own groceries."

It gets people out of their houses, they come to a common place where they know they are safe and they can get a nourishing meal and see familiar faces.- Daryl Chezzi, supervisor shelter services, Good Shepherd

Chezzi said COVID-19 has taken a toll on Good Shepherd, resulting in staffing issues at different times.

"COVID hasn't made it easy these past 19 months. We had to relearn how to work around certain barriers and obstacles," he said.

"The supply chain at one point broke down a little bit, that was difficult. 

"I think too with the population that we serve — we noticed an increase in emotional and mental health [issues] from the marginalized folks maybe not having the same access to support and coping mechanisms," Chezzi said.

Brother Richard MacPhee, Good Shepherd's chief executive officer, says: 'We're not out of the woods yet. We're still navigating the challenges brought on by the pandemic.' (Submitted by D Daryl Chezzi)

In addition to the hot turkey dinner, Chezzi said the event was an opportunity for people to get to see friends they had not seen in months.

"I find now the social aspect is really important," he said. 

"It gets people out of their houses, they come to a common place where they know they are safe and they can get a nourishing meal and see familiar faces."

Brother Richard MacPhee, Good Shepherd's chief executive officer, said for the past two years, safety measures put in place to protect members of the community against COVID-19 have modified their annual celebration for people who struggle to put food on their table.

"We're not out of the woods yet. We're still navigating the challenges brought on by the pandemic," MacPhee said.

"Good Shepherd is here 24 hours a day, seven days a week to welcome vulnerable members of our community with compassion and hospitality, especially during holidays."

Good Shepherd said its work is based on a commitment to restoring hope and dignity to society's most vulnerable members by providing food and shelter, advocacy, access to government programs, and education.

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