Father. Geek. Foodie. Entrepreneur.

Dot Com Foodies Hit The Soup Kitchen?!

The Vancouver Union Gospel Mission

When John Chow asked me to come out to the Union Gospel Mission soup kitchen for a free lunch, I thought he had gone completely insane with his lust for free stuff. In fact, he recently tried to claim my free stuff as his free stuff.  Afterall, You don’t get the name “Root of All Evil” for nothing.  John is also well known for his mischievious ways with slaying pandas and kicking over scooters as just a couple of his hobbies, so I was totally dreading what stunts he would pull.

What Is The Union Gospel Mission?

Besides operating the soup kitchen, the Union Gospel Mission is known for all sorts of good work that I wasn’t aware of in the Lower Mainland…

Union Gospel Mission is committed to caring for the hungry, hurting and homeless of Greater Vancouver, through drug and alcohol recovery, community outreach, low-cost thrift stores, and emergency meals, shelter and clothing. Founded in 1940 as a small soup kitchen, UGM now has satellite facilities in Surrey, New Westminster, Mission and downtown Vancouver, and provides services from employment training to affordable housing solutions. UGM serves over 280,000 meals each year, and provides shelter for almost 10,000 individuals a year.

Before we were allowed to sample the food, Kevan Gilbert and Lorene Vernon from the Union Gospel Mission took us on the tour of the facility.

It’s Almost Like Club Med…

 The Vancouver Union Gospel Mission

One of the things that I was most surprised with about the facility was how clean and organized it was.  In fact, even the alley and the surrounding streets were kept extremely clean.  The garden behind the building was peaceful and provides members in their drug and alcohol program a place to reflect, journal, and think about what they want to do with their lives moving forward.  They even have a waterfall and Gazebo in the backyard.  The Gazebo was built to honour one of their members that had passed away and is known as “Jimmy’s Place”. 

 The Union Gospel Mission takes no Government money…

The Union Gospel Mission does not tap into any government funding so much of the funds including this computer lab comes from corporate and public donations.  In fact, coming up on Thursday (October 4) is UGM’s annual “Feed the Hungry” Thanksgiving Radiothon on JRfm. Tune in to 93.7 FM in the Lower Mainland to hear amazing stories from UGM’s clients. You can call UGM’s Radiothon lines (604-874-8837) during the day to make a donation, or donate online anytime.

I’m Impressed.  Let’s Eat!

After being totally impressed by the condition of the facilities I was ready to be dazzled with what their kitchen could do with food donations.  I often throw together things at home with whatever is available, but cooking for myself is easy compared to cooking enough food for for a few hundred people, especially when you don’t know what you have until it gets there.

 Union Gospel Mission Soup Kitchen

Like the rest of the facility, the cafeteria area was clean and well kept and was a place that I felt absolutely comfortable in, even as an outsider.  Both staff and residents share this area and eat together.  I was most impressed with the kitchen facilities.  They were also very clean and I was pleased to see the attention to detail that the kitchen staff used in the preperation of the food.  They even regularly used temperature probes to check that food was cooked properly.

Dot Com Foodies Hit The Soup Kitchen?! 

Joining us in the food line was Michael Kwan, Ed Lau, Greg Morgan, Danny Chang, and John’s Wife, Sarah.

Is This Really How The Homeless Eat?

 The Homeless Eat Well…

Well, yes and no.  Although the Union Gospel Mission does feed the homeless population on a regular basis, only the residents that have been accepted into their drug and alcohol program get to sample feasts like this.  The emphasis on their diet is on healthy and hearty foods.  It’s much easier to deal with an addiction when your mind is taken off hunger.  It was true that no one left hungry after lunch.

 I finished my Union Gospel Mission Meal!

For some reason, the staff decided to load me right up with food.  I guess they thought I was looking a little thin.  Everyone was amazed that I cleaned off my plates so well.  In fact, the others joked that I had just ingested three meals that could have fed five homeless people. It wasn’t my fault!  They loaded me up!  The food was actually pretty good and way above any of my expectations before walking through the door.

What’s New at the Union Gospel Mission….

As we were all talking about the facility over coffee, Kevan told us about a brand new website that they were planning on launching in December, just in time for Xmas Donation time.  The new site will feature things such as…

  • Regular blogging from UGM’s front-lines workers, telling the daily stories of pain and redemption on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
  • News items and blog posts outfitted with RSS feeds.
  • Heavy YouTube, Flickr and Facebook integration to help broadcast fresh multimedia from UGM’s daily work.
  • A fresh new design that’s stronger, sharper and easier to navigate.

In addition to their new web presense, the Union Gospel Mission also has its own Facebook Profile.  To allow people to donate easier, they have also announced PayPal as another donation method.

Give The Homeless Something to be Thankful For on Thanksgiving

 A Visit to the Union Gospel Mission Vancouver

It’s pretty clear that I don’t need anymore food, but for those that are living on the streets, a hearty meal on Thanksgiving is a lot to be thankful for.  The Union Gospel Mission can feed someone for a measly $2.59 per meal.  Currently they are having a donation drive and John Chow has decided to match your donations up to $1000.  Just make a donation to the Union Gospel Mission and then email John a copy of your receipt.  John will also recognize everyone that donated with a link on a blog post this Friday.

Since I ate so much yesterday, I’ve decided to feed 100 people and have donated $259 to the Union Gospel Mission as part of my ongoing charity giving training.  If you have a few extra dollars kicking around, please help out a few of your fellow humans. Oh, and Michael will be giving away the free stuff he got from the tour which includes a Nalgene-Look Bottle and a Hat if you donate.  Just leave a comment for him that says you did.

Once again, I’d like to thank Kevan Gilbert and Lorene Vernon for having us as guests and opening up our eyes to the great work that Union Gospel Mission does.  I’d also like to thank John for being on his best behaviour and NOT starting a full scale food fight or slaying things during our visit.



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