Freda Colomb, a proud Métis and Kamloops resident of 14 years, sat over a plate of turkey dinner with all the fixings taking in her surroundings.
"This is so nice," she grinned. "I get to see all my friends, people I love. It makes me happy."
Colomb was among the 150 clients feasting and catching up with friends for Thanksgiving today at the New Life Mission's Victoria Street location.
Colomb's husband died in May. The personal blow coupled with the loss of his income while struggling with alcoholism led her to a life on the streets. She said it's been endurable over the summer, but with the weather turning cold, she will have to find other ways of surviving.
"I need to get off the booze," she says.
She reaches out and greets Terry Butcher, the mission's operations manager, with a broad smile and calls him her inspiration because she knew him while he struggled with his own addiction.
She says the gathering is not only good for the stomach, but also "very good spiritually."
"A lot of people don't have family, so you might not get to see family, but you get to see people."
Across the table from Colomb is a teary-eyed man known only as Dave.
Asked how he's doing, he looks around and says he's "better now," but his emotions stop him from going on.
Colomb explains he too is dealing with the loss of his spouse.
"We're just trying to get through it," she said.
She expresses gratitude for all the volunteers who came out to help put the gathering together.
"I very much appreciate it," she says.
The New Life Mission asked for help and Kamloops answered, in droves.
Late last week, the charitable organization realized it would be short on volunteers to prepare the annual free Thanksgiving lunch.
Following a call for help in the Daily News Friday, they were inundated with offers, said Butcher.
"When we make Kamloops aware there's a need, they just come forward, they just do," he said.
The lack of volunteers early on could be because the mission didn't clearly convey the need, said Butcher, but once organizers did, the phone rang off the hook. Among them were 17 members of a youth group who showed up Sunday to peel potatoes and be of use.
"I even had to turn away about 30 people," he said.
Donna Shea was among those who responded to the call. She too is a widow with no family in town.
She'd never volunteered at the mission before, but spent time helping out at the hospice where her husband died.
"I just wanted to come out and help if they needed the help," said Shea.
Stan Dueck, the mission's new executive director, said for many of the clients as well as the volunteers, the gathering is a chance to be part of a community.
"It's love, it's caring, it's a community," he said. "It is where (clients) can sit down beside somebody and have a conversation. And (volunteers) are all here because they wanted to share some of their time."