A second pandemic Thanksgiving won’t stop shelters from serving a hot turkey dinner

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Despite the COVID-19 pandemic approaching Toronto for a second Thanksgiving, local shelters and charities across the city are still working to provide the homeless and vulnerable with a special holiday meal.

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“There’s no way I want anyone to spend Thanksgiving in a positive way,” said Idil Omar, community program coordinator for Salvation Army New Hope Leslieville on Leslie Street.

Not only will a catering company serve Thanksgiving dinner to the shelter’s 32 residents on Monday, Omar has also ordered additional treats like pecan pie and Black Forest cake to make the holiday a little sweeter for those living there.

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Even though he’s on vacation, Omar will be playing his Thanksgiving game at the shelter and serving up special treats to residents.

“They are so excited. They are going to love it,” she said, adding that only two people will be able to dine at each table in the common area to ensure social distancing.

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90 percent of vaccinations are done at the shelter, including both residents and staff. Without the pandemic, drop-in guests would also be welcome for Thanksgiving meals, but the center has had to shelve the initiative this fall.

Margaret’s Drop-In Dundas Street East will also serve a turkey dinner with carrots, potatoes, stuffing and more on Monday, said Jean Smith, a kitchen helper.

Ten people are allowed inside to eat, but once drop-in capacity is reached, food will be served from outside.

According to Smith, COVID-19 has had a major impact on Margaret. She said that many of the regular people she used to see no longer come, she said.

Sister, an agency for at-risk, socially isolated women and trans people who are homeless or precariously housed, has another venue that will provide a hot Thanksgiving lunch to twenty residents living at the site – Along with handing out food to people from other places.

On Mondays from noon to 1:30 p.m., Sisters will serve a “whole shebang,” including turkey, potatoes, and stuffing.

“That’s an important part about feeding people in this neighborhood because so many of them find food challenging,” said kitchen worker Lisa Thorne.

“I feel good about the fact that I’m able to provide some decent food for the hungry,” she said. “But we do it everyday, this time it’s just a different meal.”

Irelyne Lavery is a Toronto-based staff reporter for the Star. Reach him via email: [email protected]

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