South Side church helps feed the people

December 24, 2009 (CHICAGO) "A lot of us don't have enough to eat sometimes and by them giving us, it's a blessing. It's a real blessing," said Sharon Johnson.

This is the 40th year that Reverend Paul Hall's South Side church has reached out to those in need over the holidays, but rarely has that need been so great.

People started lining up outside Christ Universal Church at 4:30 Thursday morning for bags of groceries and toys that would not be handed out for another seven hours.

Six-hundred people received something, but then the food ran out. Until Chef Kevin Jones from the Wyndham Lisle hotel showed up. For him, the need to extend a helping hand started last Christmas, when he saw Reverend Hall's appeal on television.

"I had 13 turkeys from a previous party. I took them out of the freezer. Went to work, went back for them and brought them here. Then I said, I can do more," Jones said.

And so, this year, with donations he got from others, Chef Jones brought a truck full of produce, 500 pounds of meat and 250 cheesecakes.

But despite the chef's amazing efforts, the need in this neighborhood is too great to be filled by one man. Between Christmas Eve and Day, the church is expected to help about 1,500 people. That is nearly twice as many as showed up last year.

"I'm asking everyone who is out shopping: We live in an age where the recession has hit people hard. People who gave last year are now in line asking for food," said Rev. Hall.

Taketta Burnside is one of those hit by the recession. Thursday she stood in line with her two daughters and two nieces hoping for a turkey to take home.

"I've been working since I was 19. This is the first year ever I spend just job luck," said Burnside.

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