The Union Gospel Mission served up a Thanksgiving feast to a record number of people Monday, thanks to the help of volunteers and donations.

The annual dinner has been served to the area's needy for more than 70 years.

With a lineup that stretched three city blocks, this year the charity served more than 2,000 of Vancouver's poorest residents in its brand new building on East Hastings St.

Among the crowd were hundreds of homeless people, many struggling with addictions.

"I think the most important thing that this meal starts is the ability to have a relationship with somebody who genuinely cares. And that creates hope," said Bill Mollard of Union Gospel Mission.

On this year's menu:

  • A ton-and-a-half of turkey, about 170 in all
  • Three-quarters of a ton of mashed potatoes
  • Two hundred gallons of gravy
  • 650 pumpkin pies
  • A few hundred litres of ice cream

CTV News at Six anchors Tamara Taggart and Mike Killeen were among the dozens who gave up their time to help brighten the day.

There are many recovered addicts here who say a meal like this is the first step to a new life.

"It does all start with a meal," said Carl Martin. "It did for me and it does for a lot of guys that are like me, that have gone through the recovery program and are clean and sober now because of the Mission."

This year the Mission is providing another reason to give thanks. The agency is partnering with clearly to provide free reading glasses for anyone who needs them.

"We're doing a small test with them to figure out what prescription they need and then they leave with their glasses," said Riana Zietsman of Clearly Contacts.

"[We hope] that the people who really need them will get them."

Thanksgiving is the Mission's best attended event of the year -- even bigger than Christmas.

It also coincides with the kick off of the nation-wide, sixth annual Homelessness Action Week, with a goal that everyone leaving the meal gets a new pair of socks and an orange.

With a report from CTV British Columbia's Peter Grainger