Standing in the parking lot of a downtown Colorado Springs ministry on Christmas morning, Larry Adams clutched a bag of food and a new sleeping bag and coat.
He said he felt blessed.
"If you can't financially get these things, you have to be thankful that somebody got it in their heart to do it for you," Adams said, a wide smile on his face as carolers sang and people went from one table to the next, picking up free food, clothing, toys and other necessities. Communion was offered to those who wanted it.
Adams, who has been staying at the Springs Rescue Mission, said the event, which brought so many people together, gave him "that happy rush."
About 160 people came to the second annual Christmas in the Park...ing Lot - modeled after Denver's decade-old Christmas in the Park, said the Rev. Ann Steiner Lantz, executive director of Ecumenical Social Ministries. ESM co-sponsored the event with First United Methodist's ministry The Edge.
Many arrived early and waited in a line that snaked around the block to a parking lot next to The Edge at 324 N. Nevada Ave.
"Our folks who are living on the streets have no Christmas - it's just another day of survival - and so we decided we were going to have Christmas for them," Lantz said, adding that working with the dozens of volunteers needed to put on the event made Christmas more meaningful.
"There are people that are living on the streets, we've got people living in storage units with no heat - people that are just really very desperate," Lantz said. "The sleeping bag and the new coat that they will get is life for them. It's how they stay alive in this winter, and that's changed Christmas for me."
Volunteers distributed about 120 winter coats and 110 sleeping bags, the two items that required tickets, which were available Monday on a first come, first served basis.
Last year, Lantz said she saw people who got new sleeping bags giving their old ones away to people who didn't get a new one. "These are some of the most generous people you will ever meet," she said.
People experiencing homelessness deserve to be able to celebrate Christmas and be treated with kindness and respect, said Susan Wheeler, a volunteer who helped organize the event.
"Our downtown neighbors, a lot of people, this is the only contact they'll have today with people who will look them in the eye and say, 'Merry Christmas,'" Wheeler said. "We just want to share the love of Jesus with as many who will come - whether that's how they look at it, or whether they just need a coat."
Samantha Dungan went to the ministry with her 12-year-old son, her 11-year-old daughter and their 3-month-old Chihuahua. Together, they pored over a table filled with toys.
"(I'm excited) for my kids to have presents on Christmas Day, because I didn't get nothing for them to open up this morning," Dungan said.
Contact Ellie Mulder: 636-0198