Home for the holidays.
That’s where many people will be this Thanksgiving Monday, but Johnny Iannone and hundreds of other Penticton residents won’t have that luxury.
But the less fortunate won’t be forgotten, thanks again to the efforts of the Soupateria and it’s kind volunteers. As it does five times a year, including every Thanksgiving, the Soupateria is providing a sit-down turkey dinner with all the trimmings starting at 11:30 a.m.
“I’m homeless and I don’t get money from the government, I get odd jobs from time to time, so the Soupateria provides an awesome place to come together especially if you’re like me and don’t have family in the area,” said Iannone, who was at the Soupateria Thursday for his midday meal. “If it wasn’t for this place I would probably do nothing for dinner, maybe a sandwich.
“I try to make my way through life with as little as possible but the Soupateria is a great asset in my life at this time to help sustain me.”
Like many of the other people who visit the centre, which serves an average of 120 people a day, 365 days a year, he can’t express his appreciation enough for the many volunteers who give their time on special occasions to do something for others.
“Awesome,” is how Iannone described them. “And the fact they are willing to serve us a sit-down dinner is really wonderful.”
And like many others who have benefited from the help, he willingly offers his help where ever he is needed at the 150 Orchard St. location.
“That’s right, he’s my go-to guy alright,” said Kristin Rusk, Soupateria volunteer coordinator who was standing within earshot nearby and has worked at the facility since 2002. “A number of our clientele have come back over the years to say thanks by helping out here.
“I think the important thing is we don’t judge anybody. These people are just the same as you and me, they’re just on hard times and some way or another I think that we’ve all been there ourselves so we know what it’s about.”
In addition to Thanksgiving, sit-down meals are served at the Soupateria on Christmas and Boxing Day, New Year’s Day and Easter.
While much of the food for the meals is donated by local businesses, money donated to the society which runs the program is used to purchase specific items.
According to Rusk, when it comes to getting volunteers to help out on special occasions, she often has to turn people away.
“I had a couple who called and wanted to help on Thanksgiving but I had to say no because we already had enough people so I said maybe they could come at Christmas,” said Rusk who has been a volunteer herself for “only” 11 years. She began offering her time in 2002 after her husband passed away.
“We (volunteers) do this because we want to,” she said. “It’s just something we like to give back to the community. We have sit down dinners at our own home so it’s nice to give the clientele a real homey dinner.”
Adding to the family setting is the fact many of those come to eat already know each other.
“With some of them I know that this is their only meal of the day they get and it’s nice we’re able to do it,” said Rusk. “At the end of the day we’re all happy and we feel really good we’re volunteers and knowing that we’ve done something to help others.
“That’s what Thanksgiving is all about.”