Holiday food baskets help the hungry

December 24, 2010 (CHICAGO)

On this Christmas Eve, the gift of giving filled a community center on Chicago's Far South Side.

The wait was long and the weather cold for those here for the holiday.

"If it wasn't for this we wouldn't have nothing," said Towana Comer.

On this Christmas Eve, Towana Comer and her family weren't the only ones struggling to afford the necessities.

The unemployed, like Danny Howard, came to this South Side church hoping for help.

"Job closed down. The economy, that got me," said Howard. For another year, the Paul Hall Community Center gave away holiday food baskets and more to anyone with a need.

"I've been on a 25 day fast," said Bishop Paul Hall. "I will not eat until tomorrow, until I've made sure all these people tonight. I will be here early in the morning to make sure everyone has a turkey this Christmas."

And from the need came a prayer for two Chicago firefighters lost this week.

After that growing line moved slowly. A few complained, but most didn't seem to mind.

Many relied on the Christmas spirit to keep them warm.

It's a ritual volunteer Kevin Hall knows well. Friday he helped load grocery bags up with provisions for a holiday dinner, but remembers when he benefited from the church's charity.

"Just the fact of giving something out. He was kind enough to give me something, so I want to be kind enough to give someone else something," Hall said.

A lot of the food and toys passed out were collected and donated by Wyndham Hotel Chef Kevin Jones and his friends.

"The hotel embraced me," said Jones. "Vendors, friends and everyone came out. We have a thousand toys."

Those at the Paul Hall Community Center hope to feed at least 2,000 people.

And while they add that donations are up, the need continues to grow meaning they may have to turn some people away.

"it's hard to go to bed hungry," said Reverend Mary Williams. "I've been there. I know what it's about. Just to wake up and have a meal on the table, it beats anything in the world."

And for the mother of an 8-year-old daughter it does.

"I know I have a turkey. Ican get a few gifts for my daughter. It's a blessing," said Alicia Brown.

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