The Downtown Dallas Omni Hotel teamed up with the Soup Mobile and lots of volunteers to give hundreds homeless men, women and children a special holiday.
The group was treated to a red carpet welcome, a free night at the Omni and a banquet lunch with Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings.
“I've had issues in my family where I had a homeless brother and so it touches my heart.” said volunteer Carol Saffle “It is very emotional for me, my tears come out in the cold, but it's seeing the joy on their faces. I don't know their lives and I know that at least for one day, we can give a little bit back.”
Organizer Meliene Roussell says the event began with about 100 people 13 years ago, and has since grown to about 500.
“Which not only tells you the event has gotten bigger but the need has gotten bigger throughout the community. So we need to all do what we can do to lower that number.” she said, “Yes, what we do is fabulous and awesome, but it's something we would like to come and say we had zero people for this event.”
Even Santa himself arrived to help spread the Christmas joy.
“Well, I was given the gift of a large stomach and a white beard, and you have to use it some way. And I can't think of a better way to use it than to celebrate the people that don't get celebrated.” said the head elf.
Perhaps the most grateful for the experience were those who got to walk down the red carpet, like April Booth and her 15-month-old son Dominique.
“People don't understand what it's like to be in our situation, and a lot of it is not choices we made, it's choices that were made for us.” she said.
Booth says she was homeless for nearly 6 months but got an apartment last summer thanks to some local organizations.
“I lost my job, and with my background, I have a felony, so it's hard for me to get a job. So it was just that, I didn't have the income coming in.”
Booth and her son will spend Christmas at the Omni this year, but she’s hoping for one more gift this holiday.
“We want compassion; we don't want to be judged for where we're at or what we're doing. That's all I would hope is for people to have more compassion.”
Organizers say they begin planning next year’s event almost immediately after Christmas, and they welcome any volunteers and sponsors who want to be involved.