Every Saturday, eight to ten Mission Possible volunteers serve breakfast and hot drinks to members of the Downtown Eastside community at our Powell Street location. Before the pandemic, our Power Breakfasts were sit-down meals for 100, but this has since turned into take-out meals distributed to over 250 individuals weekly. David and Emma are two of our dedicated Power Breakfast volunteers who have gone above and beyond over the last few months. I sat down with them over Zoom to hear more about their experiences at Power Breakfast.
David, a self-employed consultant who is easing into retirement, was looking for something to fill his time when he came across Mission Possible two years ago. He was quick to jump at the chance to volunteer with us because he loved how MP goes beyond providing a warm meal, and focuses on supporting people into a more sustainable livelihood.
Emma is new to Vancouver and moved here mid-pandemic in June to complete field work for her PhD research. Having heard about Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside on national news before and witnessing firsthand the poverty, addiction and trauma that impacts the community since moving here, Emma wanted to get involved right away. Mission Possible’s focus on “dignity and sustainability” captured Emma’s attention and she was one of the first volunteers to sign up once the COVID-19 restrictions eased up in July.
As David has volunteered at Power Breakfast for a few years, he reflected on his experience pre-COVID and expressed that he was quite impressed with [MP’s] ability to organize two sit-down breakfasts every weekend as well as adapt that to the new normal smoothly. He notes that it’s a testament to the Power Breakfast team which includes Victor, our Community Assistant, and Nic, our former Community Engagement Coordinator, who are kind, compassionate, and very well-organized. While David has decreased his involvement a bit due to the pandemic, it brings him joy to know that MP is still providing breakfasts every week despite all the changes that have had to be made. One of the things he misses most is getting to chat with people over breakfast. However, he does recognize some familiar faces in the line ups outside, and enjoys talking to the people who stick around after receiving their breakfasts. Hearing from people about their life experiences and different stories has been illuminating for David.
While Emma has never experienced a pre-COVID breakfast, she heard a lot about them from chatting with people who were waiting in line early on in her volunteering days. Something that she consistently hears is that people “really miss feeling like they're part of a community sitting at a table together,” and that they enjoyed how warm and friendly it was to sit down for a meal. However, Emma hasn’t let this change stop her from getting right up in the frontlines to engage with people. Preferring handing out coffee and making sure everyone is physically distanced over helping in the kitchen, Emma enjoys engaging with people in the line. She knows that it means a lot to people to have some human connection during this difficult time, and has become well acquainted with several regulars over the last few months. Catching up with them every few weeks is something she looks forward to at every shift.
A particular moment that has stood out to Emma is when she stopped to ask someone if they wanted a coffee, and learned after a few weeks of offering it, that the person wasn’t a coffee drinker. Emma recalls
“There was a gentleman who never took coffee that we distributed... One day I stopped, and I was like, “Do you drink coffee?” And he's like, “No, I don't drink coffee.” And I was like, “Oh, do you drink tea?,” and he said “Yeah, I actually prefer tea.” And when I asked him if he wanted a cup of tea, he was almost in tears and it really was so heartbreaking because I thought, “Oh my goodness, you know, we take things for granted like being able to make a cup of tea or go buy tea from a coffee shop.” But I guess, for him, it was just like a monumental thing that someone had actually taken the time to stop and say, "Hey, can I make you a cup of tea?" And he was just so grateful. So that was really touching.”
Receiving a hot beverage, especially since September as the weather gets colder, has been so important for people, and we’re so glad to have volunteers like Emma who go out of their way to check in on individuals.
When asked about any final thoughts, David shared that Power Breakfast is “quite a remarkable undertaking every Saturday morning, for sure.” Emma echoes this by saying “I'm really happy to do it too. It really makes my Saturday.” Having consistent volunteers is often rare for multiple reasons, but it truly makes a difference to the people who come for breakfast. Emma shared that during her shifts, people often ask her “Where’s David?” or “Where were you last week? You weren’t here!” making it clear that it really matters to people to see familiar faces. For this reason, and so many others, we are so happy to have David and Emma on our team. We could not distribute 250 meals every week without volunteers like them, and we are so thankful that they dedicate so much time to our organization.
If you would be interested in volunteering at or sponsoring our Power Breakfasts, please sign up and get more details here or email Tara at [email protected] Additionally, if you would like to help cover the costs of one Power Breakfast with a donation of $795, please get in touch with Jasmine at [email protected] You can also make a donation of any amount directly to Power Breakfast here.