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Pigeon Park dinner serving up hope

By Rosemary Newton

Pigeon Park in the Downtown Eastside at the corner of Carrall and Hastings.
FILE PHOTO, 24 HOURS

Pigeon Park in the Downtown Eastside at the corner of Carrall and Hastings. FILE PHOTO, 24 HOURS

An annual holiday tradition that started on a whim, but has since grown to feed hundreds in the Downtown Eastside is back for its 10th year.

The Servants of Hope Society, a Vancouver-based non-profit organization, returns with its Feeding the Homeless at Christmas in Pigeon Park — serving a holiday meal to people struggling with homelessness and addiction.

The event had humble beginnings, as society founder Sean H. — who asked to keep his full name withheld — and two friends decided one day to hand out some pop and chocolate at Pigeon Park as a holiday gesture. Dozens of people gathered as area residents began to recognize and greet his friends, both former Downtown Eastside residents and recovering addicts.

“They hadn’t been back for some time and people hadn’t seen them sober and in recovery,” he said. His friends went from “nervous to elated” and found joy in giving back.

They have returned every year since.

Last year, 150 volunteers served a warm holiday meal and gift-wrapped presents to 1,500 people in need. For this year’s anniversary, Sean expects similar numbers. Those attending will also have access to groceries from a food bank and warm blankets.

He said a large percentage of volunteers are those who are recovering from addiction, or who used to call the area home.

The society runs a recovery house for male addicts in east Vancouver. The sober living space acts as a bridge between treatment and independent living. For Sean, the event in Pigeon Park is a highlight.

“I’m excited,” he said. “It’s my favourite part of the year.”

This year’s dinner will take place on Dec. 21. Donations of food and warm clothing are still needed. For more information, visit servantsofhope.ca