VICTORIA -- Victoria’s Our Place Society is going ahead with its annual Thanksgiving feasts for vulnerable people in the community this week.

A free, two-hour meal will take place between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, and a free Thanksgiving dinner will be held on Friday from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Our Place Society, located at 919 Pandora Avenue.

Local businessman Gordy Dodd, owner of Dodd’s Furniture and Mattress, is sponsoring the Thanksgiving dinner. This year marks the 22nd time that Dodd has sponsored a turkey dinner for the less fortunate in Victoria.

Due to COVID-19, things will be different this year; guests will now line up to get their meals rather than being served by community leaders and politicians like in past years.

Additionally, there will only be three people allowed per table to maintain physical distancing. If anyone wants second helpings, they will have to line up again, which will free up seats and give others a chance to sit and eat.

This year, Our Place expects to feed up to 400 people.

“We are seeing a lot of people falling on really hard times due to COVID and we are seeing people who thought they would never have to access services such as Our Place are now accessing us for the first time,” said Grant McKenzie, director of communications for Our Place.

“Taking people out of survival mode, even if it’s just for 10 minutes while they enjoy a good turkey meal, means a lot to people. It can really lift people’s spirits,” he said.

Brian Cox, food services manager for Our Place, has been with the society for 31 years serving up food to Victoria’s most needy.

“I find it very rewarding,” said Cox. “I know we are doing something special for people, they look forward to it.”

Cox says that guests can expect to eat a full Thanksgiving meal this year.

“We are serving a typical Thanksgiving dinner,” he said. “We have turkey with all the fixings, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, potatoes and veggies.”

“What I really love about the Thanksgiving dinner is the joy it brings to people,” added McKenzie. “It really touches me when I see people get excited about a good meal because it really does talk about connection.”

McKenzie says that some of the newly acquired hotels around Victoria that are housing the homeless will hold their own Thanksgiving dinners this week. Many of the former hotels-turned-shelters have restaurant kitchens and seating areas attached.

The shelters can accommodate larger groups for special occasions such as Thanksgiving, which may take some of the pressure off of Our Place to provide holiday meals.