Twenty-six years ago, 100 homeless people were fed and given clothing as a result of one woman's efforts of solidarity on Christmas Day.
Today, that same effort has gradually evolved into an impressive non-profit organization that expects to give clothing, shoes, blankets, gifts, entertainment and a family meal to nearly 3,000 people who need it on Christmas Day.
"There are a lot of people who barely make each pay check," said Cathy McRoberts, a Concord resident and 21-year committee member of Christmas for Everyone. "If your children are living on pasta, cereal and canned beans... what do you do?... if you can't afford meat and a Christmas tree?"
Whether struggling or not, working families, lonely seniors, the homeless and anybody else who might not otherwise be able to have a Christmas Day celebration are welcome to partake in the non-profit's celebration, which will take place at the grounds of The New Hope International Church on Olivera Court.
"After the first year, I said if we are to do this again it has to be for everyone; not just the homeless" said Mary Perez, the non-profit's founder and director. "That's where the name comes from."
The assembly line of giving will open to the public and be run by a force of 400 volunteers from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
People sometimes start lining up at 4 a.m., said Perez. Some of the volunteers show up early to dispense blankets and coffee to those who brave the cold, added McRoberts.
Christmas for Everyone accepts monetary and gift donations year-round and receives support from a long list of private donors and local entities.
That's what the non-profit was set up for, said Perez -- to gather community support and "make sure nobody spends Christmas without gifts, hungry or alone."
Some of Contra Costa County Sheriff's Facilities personnel will work all night Christmas Eve to cook close to 100 turkeys and 600 pounds of ham to be delivered to the event's kitchen Sunday morning around 7 a.m., where cooks will be hard at work in the kitchen preparing mashed potatoes, yams, fruit salads, rolls, other foods and a variety of desserts, said McRoberts, who is in charge of running the dining room each year.
Volunteers will baby sit children while parents search for clothing and eat. County Connection Link will help shuttle people. Others will help deliver 150 home bound meals to those who requested it. Seventh Adventist Church members will help cook food and a variety of other organizations will each take one of many existing roles, organizers said.
"It really is a community force that makes this happen," said Clayton Mayor Howard Geller, who has been involved with the program for six years and has helped raise funds and gather donations. "This makes so many happy faces."
Make sure to check the non-profit's website for future volunteering opportunities and to find out how you can help this annual effort.
Have you been on the receiving or volunteering end of this annual event? What does it mean to you? Tell us in the comments.