Soupateria spreads some holiday warmth

Volunteer Betty-Lou Hunt is all smiles as she serves Richard Murphy a heaping helping of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner Monday at the Penticton Soupateria. - Mark Brett/Western News
Volunteer Betty-Lou Hunt is all smiles as she serves Richard Murphy a heaping helping of the traditional Thanksgiving dinner Monday at the Penticton Soupateria.
— image credit: Mark Brett/Western News

Growing up, Richard Murphy recalls Thanksgiving as a time to reflect on all the good things in life.

Now at age 45 and living alone circumstances have changed, but through his extended family at the Penticton Soupateria he is still able to count those blessings at this time of year.

“I remember we used to have a whole lot of relatives over and had a really big meal and we played board games and this (Soupateria) really reminds me of that,” said Murphy, who added he would otherwise be at home by himself eating whatever pre-packaged meal he could afford. “Thanksgiving is a time for giving and helping. A lot of people need this and there really is a sense of family with my friends and the staff here.”

As he and others enjoyed their meal inside, Ann Jepson was still standing outside in the growing line that stretched along Orchard Drive onto Winnipeg Street.

“God bless these people here for what they do,” she said, pulling her collar up against the cold and rain. “I don’t think they know how much this helps ... what it means to people who don’t know where else to go to get a hot meal no matter what time of year it is.”

Monday was also special in that the guests were treated to a sit-down meal instead of the usual cafeteria-style serving.

“We all sit down with family at Thanksgiving and enjoy dinner and we just feel as volunteers by doing it this way we can make it as happy, as festive and as peaceful an occasion as possible,” said Lauraine Bailie, president of the Soupateria society, who was working today as chief dishwasher. “This way they can have a nice meal because this is their home, this is their family. They are my extended family.

“It also lifts their spirits being treated with dignity because sometimes when you’re down and out you are invisible to the rest of the world, but here they have an identify.”

Like many of the 20 volunteers working at the facility, for the president it is an opportunity to give back for the many blessings she has in her own life.

“We’re all people,” said Bailie, who has worked at the Soupateria since 1996. “We’re not here to condemn or convert, we’re here to serve a hot nourishing lunch 365 days a year.”

Betty Lou Hunt was another volunteer navigating her way through the bustling kitchen and serving meals as the tables continued to fill.

“I’m not around family myself so this gives me a chance to be with people and join in the festivities,” she said. “I’m thankful there is a place for me to participate and be helpful, especially for those who don’t have families or a place to go to.

“There’s love here. I feel better at the end of the day that I’ve tried to do something to try to help another and my prayers are with them.”

As the final few people finish their pumpkin pie and ice cream, pick up their belongings and snacks and leave, the doors are closed behind them.

Now is the time the volunteers sit down together and relax and enjoy a holiday meal of their own.

But today, like all others, the doors are not locked, and should a face or two look in through the windows they will be welcomed into the warm surroundings with open arms.

“We never turn anybody away, especially now on Thanksgiving, there is always room for one more,” said Bailie.


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