In the spirit of this time of giving between now and Christmas, the Richmond News is featuring the work of a local non-profit.
After 20 minutes of singing Christmas carols at the Salvation Army church, Jeannie Young leads her son David to the lunch room where the pair line up to receive a plate of beef stew, mashed potatoes and coleslaw.
David takes the paper plate topped with the warm meal to one of the eight-seater circular tables, and tucks in.
“He loves coming here,” Young said of her 29-year-old son, who has special needs. “It's good for the young people to come out and socialize. And also for other people to see them.”
The pair have come to the Salvation Army’s weekly hot lunch, served on Thursdays at 12:30. It’s open to people who may be experiencing food insecurity.
“There’s a big need in Richmond,” pastor Kathie Chiu told the Richmond News. “Property is expensive. Rents are expensive … So they come here to stretch their budget.”
The lunch brings together seniors on fixed incomes, people relying on disability assistance (the rent portion of which, Chiu says, would barely cover one third of the money needed for a one-bedroom apartment in Richmond) and anyone else in the community who needs it.
David usually comes with other adults with developmental disabilities who are in a group together with the Richmond Society for Community Living. His mother tags along for lunch, adding she enjoys seeing him spend time with his best friend Justin.
Tadashi Mizumoto also came with the group. He said his favourite part of the visit is the food, but that he also loves the singing in the church beforehand.
During the holidays, you may see volunteers with the Salvation Army ringing bells and asking for donations. That money goes toward helping people in the community who are in need.
“It’s advocacy and support, referrals, just helping people navigate the system,” Chiu said.
The Salvation Army provides clothing vouchers and grocery gift cards to families in need, and sends about 40 children from low-income families to summer camp every year.
They also serve hot meals at the weekly community lunch, and put on their annual Christmas dinner, cooked by a retired professional chef, where priority is given to people below the low-income cutoff.
Chiu said she’s noticed the demand for the Salvation Army’s services increase over the years, but donations haven’t kept pace. This year, she’s worried about hitting their $150,000 fundraising goal to keep the programs and services they have in place.
“There are a lot of people who can't make ends meet. Things are so expensive. We try to stand in the gap for those people that can't get help other ways.”