Feeding Bodies, Hearts and Minds

Just had a call from the folks at the Community Gospel Hall to tell us that there were 90 people at this week’s edition of the transients/summer workers/summerdoughs’ Tuesday night dinner.

That’s sharply up from the 55 to 60 that St. Paul’s Anglican played host to last week and still more than the group St. Mary’s Catholic Church started with at the beginning of the month.

It’s a good thing that all three churches are banding together to host the last of these dinners on the 29th. We may need all the food we can find.

These dinners started some 15 or so years back when the Roman Catholic priest at the time, Father Tim Coonen, and his congregation decided that the Gospel’s injunction to feed the hungry might well be applied to the hordes of summer workers who arrive here late in April and early in May every year, get jobs, and then have to wait a month for their first pay cheque, or struggle unsuccessfully to find either jobs or places to live.

Once they had decided what they wanted to do about it, they approached the three other churches that were active at the time and asked if we all wanted to join in the effort of offering a hot meal, a welcoming hand and a safe place to meet once a week for the first month, starting right around break-up time.

We all figured that anyone who couldn’t get his or her act together in that much time really needed to move on, but we all agreed to help where we could.

Over time these Tuesday gatherings also became the place where little orientation presentations were given.

The Dawson Health Centre appeared to tell people about their services, warn them to get extra insurance if they were from out of territory, and explain how health care works here.

The Women’s Shelter arrived during the second dinner and outlined what they would be able to do for people if there was a need.

I’m told that last night’s gathering featured a trio of volunteer pitches, with representatives from the Dawson City Music Festival, Conservation Klondike and the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, who will need lots of help to put on the Moosehide Gathering in August.

One of the most popular presentations is always the Be Bear Aware slideshow, video and talk by the local conservation officers.

A range of people shows up for the dinners. Not all summer workers are young people, after all, and anything from very late teens to late middle age is not at all uncommon.

Some are locals who just come along for the meal and a chance to meet people.

Some have been in town other years and look forward to these May evenings at St. Mary’s, which is the chosen place because it is easy to find, and has the best set-up of kitchen and multi-purpose room in the ground floor area that used to be a school room until the mid 1960s.

The diners are grateful for the service. They help to wash the dishes, clean up any spills, stack the chairs and put away the tables after the 90 minutes or so that it takes to hold the event.

They are full of thanks when they leave after the meal and talk, and smile when they meet you on the street later on if they recognize you.

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