Siloam Mission is celebrating Christmas in the heart of Winnipeg with its annual Chiefs at Christmas lunch.
Hundreds of members from Winnipeg's homeless community are gathering in Siloam Mission today to "celebrate Christmas with friends and family."
"It is wonderful what's happening here today," Leah Gazan, MP for Winnipeg Centre says. Gazan lives in the area and is "looking forward to spending the holiday season" with her community.
This is the second year the Christian organization, in partnership with Chiefs at Christmas, is hosting this event, but throughout the year has hosted similar lunches. Gilbert Fredette, founder of Chiefs at Christmas, says this is the best time to share the message of "hope, healing and transparency."
Families are excitedly sharing their Christmas plans during the dinner with young children happily colouring beside them, saying how excited they are for presents this year. Just as you would expect at any lunch happening at the holidays, a traditional Christmas dinner is served, a singer is performing Christmas Carols, and gifts are exchanged. Speeches were given to commence the lunch prepared and served by volunteers.
"My wife got me started," Rick, a volunteer says. "I love doing it now. I'm attached to it."
Many people have been serving for years, including Winnipeg Blue Bomber Brady Oliveira with some of his friends and family members, who have been volunteering on Christmas Eve for six years. This year, the family brought along their neighbour to help spread the holiday cheer.
"We always come in and help out as a family," volunteer Marla Merasty says. "We decided as a family to come here as start helping out on Christmas Eve."
There is a waiting list for volunteers for the Chiefs at Christmas lunch, but Siloam Mission does not want that to discourage people from volunteering throughout the year.
"The volunteers here at Siloam are the wind at our back," CEO Jim Bell says."I know we ask a lot, and we appreciate it."
For many people who are living in the street, this may be the only Christmas celebration they have. Siloam Mission takes care to make sure it feels like Christmas. One dinner says they come back each year for "the food and the people" at Siloam Mission.