Toronto shelter serves up more than 1,600 Thanksgiving meals
There was plenty of good food, good company and good cheer at The Good Shepherd Ministry on Queen Street East on Monday.
A team of more than 80 volunteers cooked up and served more than 1,600 turkey dinners to folks who otherwise wouldn't have one.
They prepared mashed potatoes by the barrel and gravy by the bucket to do along with more than 160 large turkeys.
"We started cooking the turkeys about two-and-a-half weeks ago," says Brother Tom Liss.
He says the meat was frozen and heated up on Monday morning.
While it may be easy for most to take a simple thing like going to a restaurant for granted, Liss says the Thanksgiving experience at the Good Shepherd is a true luxury for his clients.
"They seem to look forward to Thanksgiving where they can sit down and be served. For them, its a real treat," he says.
The stress of life on the streets seemed to melt away on the faces in the dining hall.
Just a few years ago, Leo, who didn't want to leave his last name, was a regular at The Good Shepherd.
He was living homeless in the east-end but started to turn his life around when he got involved with the ministry.
Today, Leo's getting back on his feet and has his own apartment in Mississauga.
But he still comes back downtown to lend a hand with holiday meals.
"At that time, I didn't have a place to stay but the people here treat you well," he says.
For others, the meal is as much catching up with old friends as it is about the turkey.
"Its great because you get to talk about your problems or why they're out on the street," says Cliff, who is at his 20th Good Shepherd Thanksgiving meal.
"They understand," he adds.
The dining hall at The Good Shepherd was buzzing all afternoon, which Liss says is proof that times are tough.
"Ever since the recession our numbers have been going up," he says.