Community Thanksgiving meals in Ottawa on pandemic pause for a second straight year
It's a weekend of celebrations for many in the capital, an opportunity to gather again with friends and family, but for Ottawa's most vulnerable the COVID-19 pandemic is still pausing community meals and celebrations.
"It's just not the same sense of community and for those in this community at this time of year who are suffering, who are lonely that was always the piece we brought when we do the meal inside," said Peter Tilley, CEO of the Ottawa Mission.
At the Mission, its highly anticipated Thanksgiving get together is on hold for a second year in a row. Instead, Thanksgiving meals will be handed out to go. Thousands are still expected to lineup outside the Ottawa Mission between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Monday.
"We'll make the best of it, we'll have some fun and people will still at least get a warm turkey dinner on Thanksgiving Monday," said Tilley.
Other community and shelter dinners have also been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Salvation Army's gathering is limited to residents only, with the shelter handing out some Thanksgiving meal packages earlier in the week.
"We're airing on the side of caution and not doing a community meal. The meal we're doing is strictly for the people staying with us so it will be a quiet affair," said Marc Provost, CEO of the Salvation Army's Ottawa Booth Centre.
This comes as the need for services of this sort across the city is soaring. Pandemic struggles and sky-high food prices are taking a toll.
The Ottawa Mission says its food truck is busier than ever.
"Within six months it grew to 19 different communities and close to 3,000 meals a month now that we're providing. That to me is just a sign of things that are out there," said Tilley.
Devon Jesse is one of those in need. He's been left jobless several times during the pandemic, finding himself relying on shelters.
"This is one of the main places that I go to sort of to find a piece of heart, because sometimes you just don't know where to go to," said Jesse.
So while at the Ottawa Mission, those who need it will still get a hot meal this holiday season -- missing still is the sought-after sense of community.