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Published: 12/26/2010

Weekly charity mission turns holiday celebration

Cindy Nearhood gives a hug, which were distributed in abundance along with the razors, toys, food, and clothing outside the Main Library. Another volunteer, Jennifer Black, wore a 'Free Hugs' apron as she passed out dozens of banana-and-chocolate-chip muffins. Cindy Nearhood gives a hug, which were distributed in abundance along with the razors, toys, food, and clothing outside the Main Library. Another volunteer, Jennifer Black, wore a 'Free Hugs' apron as she passed out dozens of banana-and-chocolate-chip muffins.
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Kerrie Adams, center, hands out fruit as attendees look over stacks of warm clothing being given away by a coalition of community groups. The outdoor event has been held every Saturday for three years. Kerrie Adams, center, hands out fruit as attendees look over stacks of warm clothing being given away by a coalition of community groups. The outdoor event has been held every Saturday for three years.
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Chrystina Brake watches her son 9-year-old son Isaiah carry a large present as his 2-year-old sister Alisha stands by. Ms. Brake, who said she's unemployed and raising three children on her own, found a coat at the Christmas Day event for her 8-year-old daughter, Miah. Chrystina Brake watches her son 9-year-old son Isaiah carry a large present as his 2-year-old sister Alisha stands by. Ms. Brake, who said she's unemployed and raising three children on her own, found a coat at the Christmas Day event for her 8-year-old daughter, Miah.
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A coalition of community groups and concerned citizens passed out holiday meals on the frozen lawn of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library on Michigan Street.

The free meals included turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, rolls, and a slice of cake.

Lifeline Ministries' bus was packed with dozens of new coats and 300 shoe boxes filled with toys and goodies for children.

Becca Young, 11, of Toledo, passed out hundreds of disposable razors, each one hand-tied with a ribbon.

"I like helping," she said.

"I went here with my Girl Scout troop and we listened to the story of how this all started and it made me feel sad.

"We kind of told each other, maybe we should come do this more often."

Paul Sandstrom, 28, of Monroe said he got his Christmas wish helping others.

"My wife asked me what I wanted for Christmas, and I said I wanted to come down here and feed everybody Christmas dinner. I don't feel the need for material things. I've got enough," said Mr. Sandstrom, who is a bus driver in Ann Arbor.

Aaron Beaman, 34, of Toledo was among those who expressed gratitude for the food, clothing, and smiles.

"Can't ask for anything better than this," he said.

"People coming out and spending time with other people that don't really have family. I think it's a blessing, man, that people come down here with good hearts and give their time to help others."

It's been a rough year, Mr. Beaman said.

He was quick to see a silver lining: "I'm thankful that I lived to see another Christmas. I got my health, my family, my friends -- I can't ask for nothing better than that."

It was a frosty 27 degrees yesterday morning, but the event was full of holiday warmth.

The downtown outreach is held every Saturday, year round, and is led by such groups as Food for Thought, 1Matters.org, and Lifeline Ministries with help from numerous churches, nonprofit agencies, and concerned individuals.

It just so happened this year the regular Saturday fell on Christmas Day.

Jennifer Black, 32, of Toledo, wore a "Free Hugs" apron as she passed out dozens of banana-and-chocolate-chip muffins.

"It feels really good, and it's fulfilling," she said.

"It helps to brighten the day, and I'd also say one benefit is the smile on my face for the rest of the day."

Kameel Ansara, 47, of Sylvania, a local restaurateur and chef, spent eight hours on Friday cooking 200 pounds of turkey for yesterday's outreach.

"Saturday morning is the highlight of my week," he said.

His extended family decided to donate scarves and hats to the needy instead of exchanging presents among themselves.

Mr. Ansara, Rob Rego, T.J. Phillips, and Scott Ledderman -- who jokingly call themselves "The Four Stooges" -- are at the library every Saturday passing out hot meals.

"We're here because of the people," Mr. Phillips said, tilting his head toward those lined up for food. "When they stop coming, we'll stop coming."

Chrystina Brake, 33, of Toledo, smiled as she stood beside her three children, Isaiah, 9, Miah, 8, and Alisha, 2.

"I appreciate this," she said. "I have three kids, and I'm raising them on my own and it's not easy."

She said she's unemployed and couldn't afford to buy a coat for Miah, but she found one yesterday on the Lifeline bus.

"It's awesome. They gave her a coat. She has a coat," Ms. Brake said joyfully.

Joseph Krupp, 35, of Toledo, an unemployed construction worker, tried on his new coat and gave out dozens of hugs.

"This is a big family. It can't get any better than this right here," he said.

The community outreach has been going on every Saturday for about three years.

"We've never, ever missed a day," said Amanda Aldrich, executive director of Food for Thought.

"Even when it's 30 below or 120 degrees, we're always out here. For all our friends who are unhoused, I think it helps them understand that we appreciate them and we care about them no matter the season or the day."

Contact David Yonke at: dyonke@theblade.com or 419-724-6154.



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