What began as an outreach initiative on the part of a few volunteers under a tent in a parking lot has evolved in short order to become a catalyst for community-building in North Kamloops.
The church hall was a hive of activity on Saturday afternoon as residents filed in, some bearing gifts, others preparing Christmas dinner seating for more than 100 people.
This was not just a meal, though, it's a movement - the Jubilee Urban Movement and Partners, or JUMP for short - that emphasizes the importance of nourishing the spirit as well as the body.
"What these people do is amazing," said Christine Woytko. Like others, she helps with the meals, enjoying the food along with the camaraderie.
"It just grows and grows. There are 130 people here every Saturday for a meal."
On Thanksgiving, they served 240 meals.
The organization originated in the summer of 2012 when a couple of individuals set up a tent in the Total Pet parking lot and served a simple meal to about 25 people.
Part of the idea is to fill in gaps in free meal programs already provided by New Life Mission and the Salvation Army, as well as to reach out to one of the city's poorest neighbourhoods.
As numbers grew, they relocated to an enclosure behind Kamloops Immigrant Services, but soon outgrew that. Mount Paul United Church agreed to accommodate the growing program while New Life Mission provides use of its kitchen for food preparation.
Glenn Hilke, one of the organizers, said the concept was to keep the infrastructure minimal to control costs and to build in an element of self-reliance.
"We were hoping since the beginning, as the momentum grew for this, that people taking advantage of the service would take control of the project," Hilke said.
That's where the word "partners" comes in, referring not only to the supporting organizations but to the participants who become actively engaged.
The jubilee reference comes from a singing group of that name. Harold John, a volunteer, musician and activist involved in the project, gave that name to his street ministry and it was subsequently adopted for the community meals project.
Natalee Roberts, 12, with help from her little sister Kyla, 6, exemplified community spirit on Saturday. They brought in a vanload of donated winter clothes to turn over to ASK Wellness.
"I just see a lot of people in need, so I thought it would be good to help," Natalee said.
They initially intended to help a couple of local families, but contributions exploded after they mentioned the clothing drive on the Random Acts of Kindness Facebook page.
"She's seen what rock bottom looks like," said Natalee's father, Kyle, as they awaited the meal.
"She's seen what it looks like to be poor."