Something for which to be thankful

For a couple of hours Monday afternoon a group of between 80 and 100 men and woman gathered at the New Life Mission and gave thanks.

They sat with a cup of coffee to warm themselves against the cool air and a hot plate of turkey, mashed potatoes and fixings to fill their bellies.

Watching them eat was Robert Baxter. More than a year ago he was a client at the mission, having lost his job and his home to a drug addiction.

He returned on Monday, his demons conquered, as a volunteer for the mission's yearly Thanksgiving dinner.

"I just keep coming back," he said.

Baxter met a lot of the mission's clients while among their ranks. He said the dinner is a big deal for many who huddled at the tables. It's a chance for them to have a decent meal and get out of the cold.

He went into the kitchen and got a glass of milk for Keegan Gauthier, 4, who sat with his mom, Erin Stagg. She said her family has fallen on hard times. While they have a home, she and her husband are looking for work. Money is tight.

"We wanted to give him (Keegan) the full traditional dinner. It's a good atmosphere," said Stagg, explaining why the family came to the mission.

"You do what you can to keep afloat."

Dinner was served from noon to about 1:30 p.m. The men and women, many of them living out of doors, lined up and gathered their plates of food with the help of volunteers dressed in kitchen whites.

David MacLean took his plate and sat at a table by himself. He came to Kamloops looking for work, but hasn't found any. He plans to go to Vancouver Island and try his luck there, he said.

"It's warmer there," said MacLean.

MacLean enjoyed his turkey dinner and appreciated the work of the volunteers, he said.

Terry Butcher, the New Life Mission's director of outreach, said the dinner is one of many in the city being held for the less fortunate. There was a time when it was the only one.

He said the economic downtown made it a tough year for the mission, but people donated enough to make the dinner happen. Butcher hopes the generosity will continue into Christmas.

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