With temperatures dipping down to -16C one Saturday evening the Salvation Army food truck was a welcome sight to homeless people in Williams Lake.
As the truck pulled up adjacent to the Cariboo Friendship Society shelter at about 10:30 p.m., men and women began approaching to receive some warm food and kind words from volunteers.
There was pea soup, subway sandwiches, fruit, hot tea, chocolate or coffee, bottled water, desserts and chocolate bars for the taking.
One couple, clad in blankets, hats and warm gloves, asked for sleeping bags as well, because they planned to sleep outside.
Others said they were staying at the shelter.
It was the truck’s third stop on a Saturday night that route co-ordinator Dina Kennedy has been developing since she began the street ministry program in January 2019.
They also go to Boitanio Park, Spirit Square, the Stampede Grounds, Glendale and finish off beside the Cariboo Regional District building.
“We drive around and see if there is anyone walking the streets and will pull over and talk with them,” Kennedy said. “The Cariboo Regional District building on Third Avenue is usually our last stop and we are usually home by about 1 a.m. The RCMP told us to go to the CRD because there is free Wi-Fi there.”
When the Salvation Army in Maple Ridge acquired a new emergency disaster services truck, Kennedy pushed to have their old truck brought to Williams Lake and it arrived in April 2018.
Kennedy approached Dawn and Geoff Butt, executive directors of the Salvation Army, and because there are lots of people out wandering the streets late at night, she asked if she could use it for street ministry and outreach and they said “absolutely.”
“I phoned up my friend Judy and told her what I was thinking of doing and she was on board right away. There were three of us for the first six months.”
It has the capacity to cook hundreds of meals in an hour, has a freezer on board, and capacity for about five people to work comfortably inside at the same time.
Between January and October, 2019 the program handed out 30 sleeping bags, three blankets, six bibles, nine hygiene kits, 26 pairs of gloves, hats, scarves and socks.
They have handed out 248 warm or cold beverages and 397 hot meals.
Presently she has a volunteer list of about 12 people and would love to see that number increase so it can be offered every Saturday night. Only four or five people are needed at one time and she is trying to get a schedule together.
A call to has gone out for more volunteers and through that she has received donations of sleeping bags, hats and toques.
The volunteer crew meets every Saturday at the Salvation Army at about 8:30 p.m. to make sandwiches and reheat soup the soup kitchen cook prepares on Friday.
“If not we make our own soup or we’ve even made hot dogs and chili and we are usually out about 9 p.m.”
On average they feed anywhere from six to 16 people each night.
The truck would also be used if the Salvation Army is called out to assist the RCMP or Central Cariboo Search and Rescue, Kennedy said.
“We have also had courses to work on the truck with Emergency Disaster Services so that we’ve got people on standby to come and help.”