Tree lighting marks start of holiday season

November 25, 2009 (CHICAGO) Among those joining the mayor were members of the Weivoda family of Palos Heights who donated this year's tree. Actress and Chicago native Bonnie Hunt was also on hand.

"Talking about Charlie Brown, you guys remember when they get the feeble little tree and linus puts the blanket around it and it holds the tree up and makes it sturdy and gives it the foundation? That's how I feel about this city. You guys all are my warm blanket," Hunt told the crowd.

Christmas ornaments glisten and sparkle at the Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza.

"The music, the beautiful presents. Who doesn't want to get a gift like this? All handmade, all originals. It's a time of joy," said Iwona Gacek, Christkindlmarket vendor.

It is the largest Christmas market outside of Nurnberg, Germany, brought here 14 years ago by a jolly man named Ray Lotter.

"Part of the tradition in Germany is to have a Christmas market where you meet with family and friends and everybody and have a good sausage and hot spiced wine," said Lotter.

While there is joy this holiday season, there is also hardship.

On the South Side, at Rainbow Push Headquarters, Rev. Jesse Jackson teamed up with a grocery chain to hand out turkey dinners to needy families.

In Evanston, the Salvation Army handed out gifts and boxes of food. More and more families need help in the community.

"God sent people here to help people," said Cheri Hubbard.

"All our clients' loads have doubled starting three months. If there is an indicator or a predictor, we have it early on because we're seeing so many more people," said Jean Sapper, Salvation Army case worker.

Sapper says families are here because they have lost jobs and are now facing hardship, many for the first time.

"For me it's a lot of help. I'm not working right now so it helps," said Sandra Torres.

When it comes to donations the Salvation Army is grateful.

"People are just giving....they see what we're doing and they want to share with us," said Major Alberto Rapley, Salvation Army.

At the tree lighting on Wednesday night, Mayor Daley emphasized that it's the season to reach out to others.

"I hope everyone donates whether it's food, clothing or a monetary donation to your favorite charity," said Daley.

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