Hundreds of people sat down for turkey and mashed potatoes with all the fixings as part of Siloam Mission’s annual Easter meal Monday afternoon.
Forty-five volunteers from the Manitoba Real Estate Association were there to load plates, wait tables and serve coffee and pie for members of Siloam’s clients, many of whom experience poverty and/or homelessness.
"I can see just volumes of volunteers, and that’s the most encouraging part today," said Jim Bell, Siloam’s chief executive officer. "This reminds me how fortunate and how blessed we are in the city of Winnipeg and the province of Manitoba. People have good hearts."
Nearly every chair in the dining room, which seats more than 400, was full at noon when lunch service began.
Tables were adorned with pastel Easter eggs and colourful napkins. Instead of standing in line for food, volunteers carried plates to the seated patrons.
"Holiday meals are a special time at Siloam Mission," said Bell. "We try to make it feel like home."
Bell said they were prepared to serve 1,000 meals, but expected around 800 guests. As spaces emptied, volunteers helped more patrons find chairs and plates of food.
This is the 14th year MREA volunteers have served Easter lunch at Siloam; for Tony Rinella, it’s his fifth year.
Rinella’s father emigrated to Winnipeg from Italy, unable to speak English and with almost nothing to his name. His grandparents never had a home to call their own, so Rinella’s father hoped for a better life.
"Growing up, he always said, ‘Everybody has the right to have a roof over their head,’" Rinella said. "When I got older, I went, ‘Oh, I get it now.’"
Rinella is vice-chairman of the MREA Shelter Foundation, which funds shelter-related charities around Manitoba including Siloam Mission.
"I want to make sure that everyone has a chance to have something," he said. "They deserve to have something."
Bell said Siloam relies on its volunteer base which, in terms of hours worked, adds more than 40 full-time positions to its workforce.
"It starts with a meal, but we want to help people with housing. We want to take the next steps around mental wellness. We want to work with other partners when it comes to addictions," said Bell.
"It’s a much longer path, for which we need everybody involved."