HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Thousands of people walked away with free food and Christmas toys for their children on Saturday. Volunteers with the City Wide Club served hot meals, distributed toys, and clothing, and gave away take-home baskets to families in need at the 44th annual Super Feast event.
Ruth Gonzalez was one of those people. She and her family fell on hard times five years ago after losing their RV home during Hurricane Harvey. Although rebuilding has been tough, she knew she could bring her grandchildren to the George R. Brown Convention Center for a little holiday pick-me-up.
"We're in need. We need help," Gonzalez said. "I like how the community comes to help out. If it wasn't for them, my grandchildren wouldn't have many Christmas presents. We're here to get them some toys they can play with, some clothes, and whatever they can get."
Organizers also made curbside service available to families who opted to stay in their cars and wait in drive-thru lines behind the convention center. Around noon, the City Wide Club reported a significant increase in people who showed up to receive donations and put out a last-minute call for canned and non-perishable food.
In the hours leading up to the event, organizers told ABC13 they needed about 100 more volunteers. Doors opened to the public about 30 mins behind schedule. Down the hall of the convention center was one of the city's temporary warming centers, which housed hundreds of people during this week's cold front.
According to some organizers, the need for services felt more dire this season. During a time when some people are still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, adjusting to inflation, and getting through this week's arctic blast, volunteers expressed it makes their mission more important now than ever.
"We see people from all walks of life, whether you're going through something, you're homeless, lost your job, here alone, or for some reason don't have anyone to spend Christmas with. Anybody can come here and we welcome everybody with open arms and a chair," one volunteer said.
"I've got four kids. They're all here serving today and just understanding that people are people no matter what walk of life they come from and that they are to love them and care for them no matter what," another volunteer said.
Denise Baker, the spokesperson for the Super Feast event, estimated about 25,000 to 30,000 people were in attendance. She's been donating her time with the City Wide Club for about 20 years and said what brings volunteers back year after year is the impact they can have on someone less fortunate.
"People helping people. That's what it's all about. It's the holidays especially. So just take some pride in you know, in our home, in our state, and just say you know, lend a helping hand," Baker said.