SAN ANTONIO — Dozens of volunteers decided to give back on Christmas Day by blessing neighbors who don't have a home for the holidays. They filled Haven for Hope with plenty of Christmas cheer, passing out more than than $80,000 worth of donated socks, shoes and toiletry items to about 500 guests.
Each guest was given a bright red bag to put their new clothes and shoes inside—the simple items some people would take for granted. At Haven for Hope, the gifts were given with a smile.
"This is what Christmas is about: giving yourself and helping other people," said volunteer Kelsey Kohler.
The gesture was an effort to make Christmas a happy day for those who could be living through tough times.
"My wish for anyone at Haven for Hope is that every day they can see hope," said Haven for Hope President and CEO Kenny Wilson. "We want that for every single person, and we do whatever it takes for each one."
Church Under the Bridge and other group volunteers woke up before the sun to spend part of their Christmas blessing others.
"(I) woke up at 3:00 in the morning and then to see my kids, my children watch me go off to work to the place that really saved our family...you know, it's really surreal," said Anthony Berardi, who now works at Haven for Hope. "I just want to be there to set a good example for my children and for the guests here at Haven for Hope to let them know, 'Look, I was there, I was in your shoes two-and-a-half years ago.'"
Berardi isn't the only one soaking in his progress, going from needing help to giving it. Another volunteer whose life turned around at Haven for Hope is Timothy Sneed. During his time there, he linked up with Street 2 Feet, a group that promotes walking and running for people experiencing homelessness.
"Mostly it's allowed me to stay grounded," Sneed said. "I live with post trauma and it's a way to overcome some of those issues. It's a way to focus holistically; there's nothing that does it for me like running. It touches me mind, body and spirit, but probably more important than that is just the connection with community."
From starting off with one lap to completing a 50K Ultra, Sneed grew as a runner and a man. That man has had his ups and downs. He says no matter the challenge, the power of hope keeps winning.
"One of the things that probably saved my life because I had just basically given up, there was a lot of shame and guilt. I knew that I could come back to Street 2 Feet, I knew I could come back to Haven for Hope and that was the hope that kept me going on," he added. "And they welcomed me with open arms."
His arms are now open to the hundreds of guests spending their Christmas at Haven for Hope.
You can help create the magic even after Christmas. You can donate your time or money to Haven for Hope and make a difference right here in San Antonio. Visit their website for all of the information.