We were invited to a special Christmas Dinner. I know, for normal people Christmas had come and gone but to the volunteers and other workers of The Kettle, Christmas is a busy time for them to help people in need so they postpone their festivities until the end of January.
There are several organizations working throughout the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver and I had not been that familiar with the Kettle before, even though I often pass by their drop in centre.
I know there are many agencies which require a helping hand and most of us often give to the Salvation Army or other worthwhile charities. As members of local car clubs we support the Cruise for Kids, and through the BC Corvette Club we also donate to many charities every year, like the Telethon and we also sponsor a handicapped van through Easter Seals.
Here is a short mission statement taken from their website "thekettle.ca" (<--click link)
Changing Lives, Building Community
"Mental illness, coupled with stigma, low incomes and substance abuse – these are issues that thousands in our city face. They are the people we see every day in our communities as we go about our business; individuals who have found themselves overwhelmed by circumstance and feel forgotten by society. They need a helping hand to mobilize and access resources, eventually building trust, and most importantly hope."
There were over 350 people here, mostly "underprivileged" people that I had perhaps passed on the streets who were here through no fault of their own. The Kettle also operates assisted housing units and there is even an on-site health clinic. I wasn't sure what to expect when it was mentioned to be a Christmas dinner, so I came in work attire which means dress shirt and slacks, extremely overdressed in view of the "clientele" of the Kettle. There was a table specifically for the Directors of the Society but other than them and us, I did feel a little self concious and a little out of place.
All the time while I was eating my Christmas Turkey Dinner (complete with stuffing and all the trimmings) I was thinking that I shouldn't be here and eating this food when it could have been given to someone more deserving, and that their hard earned sponsorship funds could have been better directed.
After dinner was served, there was the dessert. I am not positive but I believe that the catering company donated their facilites (fewer bookings in January). The tables were cleared and Santa was welcomed in to distribute Toys for the children.
Simple toys that were selected and individualized for each child, but you should have seen the smiles of joy in their eyes when their names were called and presents were opened.
The Band is getting ready to play. For one evening they (the clients) are able to enjoy themselves, have a good meal get some entertainment and leave the pressures of the world behind with a feeling that someone cares for them.
(The Directors: Kettle Friendship Society)
As I watch the Band and the dancing I am thinking how lucky we are to be able to leave this place and resume our normal lives . . .
and to be very thankful for what we have.