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Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission brings Thanksgiving meals to streets

Union Gospel Mission teams hand out prepackaged Thanksgiving meals to those in need this week. (Shane Bang/Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission)

The coronavirus may have changed Thanksgiving this year, but the disease is not stopping Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission from carrying out its Thanksgiving tradition of feeding the hungry.

Because of the pandemic, the nonprofit is not having people into its building for its usual Thanksgiving meal.

But, with the help of St. Thomas Orthodox Church and local food trucks, Union Gospel teams have been going out in the field this week, bringing hundreds of individual meals to encampments throughout Seattle.

“Instead of the dine-in Thanksgiving meal, we’re passing meals out … and we’re distributing those to our outreach teams on the streets,” said Union Gospel Mission Director of Outreach Brian Chandler.

Union Gospel Mission’s Search and Rescue Van brings help and hot chocolate to the streets

For the safety of recipients, they are using masks, rubber gloves, and pre-packaged meals. Food is placed on tables for people to grab themselves, so that everyone can stay 6 feet apart.

“We’re still able to meet some needs out there by providing some meals, and still able to maintain safety for the folks we’re serving,” Chandler said.

Chandler said that COVID-19 has forced them to be creative and find new ways to administer to people. He hopes to keep these new strategies permanently.

“It’s changed how we do outreach, and I think all of this is going to go with us into the future; it’s not just going to stop when this COVID thing is over, we’re not just going to go back to business as usual,” Chandler said. “I think the changes that we’ve been able to make during these eight, nine months are changes that have been fantastic.”

A recent Washington State University study estimated that 30 percent of Washington households have experienced food insecurity since the pandemic started. That equates to more than 2 million people having trouble getting enough to eat.

Union Gospel is noticing this uptick in needy families this year, so in a new program, they have been distributing food boxes throughout King County.

“We have seen a large increase in people who are coming and needing food,” Chandler said. “We’ve been able to, through generous, generous donors and volunteers coming together … meet those needs.”

Because social distancing keeps people from fitting in shelters, they have been going out bringing warm clothing and gear to people.

Although many people and agencies are suffering the pandemic’s financial hit, Chandler said Union Gospel Mission has been getting quite a lot of help through donations of funds and supplies. He observed that people appear to be giving whatever they can spare.

“There’s just not as many places this year that people can get Thanksgiving meals and food in general … people are understanding that there are a lot of service providers that are not able to function fully, so people are actually reaching out more, looking for more opportunities to give,” he said.

Union Gospel Mission is not taking volunteers right now because of the pandemic, but you can contribute financially on the website.

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