San Francisco groups spread holiday cheer, feed thousands in need

'Tis the season for giving.

Thousands of free meals were served all over the Bay Area on Christmas to those in need.

A holiday tradition for six decades now, GLIDE Memorial Church in San Francisco served up 2,500 hot meals on Christmas.

"Food is delicious. It’s from the soul," 67-year-old Michael Thomas said.

Thomas couldn’t make ends meet and lost his home in September, but he always has a seat at the table at GLIDE.

"It is like family 'cause everybody treats me with respect here," Thomas said.

In the past, James Sampaga was a self-described drug addict living on the streets.

Today he’s an employee of GLIDE helping others who are struggling as he once did.

"This place accepted me for who I was and didn’t want nothing from me other than for me to be the best James that I could be which was a trip coming from the street. You know what I mean?" Sampaga said.

It takes 100 volunteers to serve and deliver meals on Christmas Day alone, but GLIDE serves every day for people from all walks of life, people like Devon Partee who was unhoused for 10 years before getting back on his feet.

"I told myself that I’m not going to do the streets no more," Partee said. "I’m going to get a job and all that stuff and everything I said I’m going to do, as long as you stay focused on what you need to do," you can make it, he suggested.


GLIDE church, foundation feeds nearly 3,000 for Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve morning at the Tenderloin staple started with music and soul; GLIDE Memorial Church held a Christmas Eve mass. Longtime attendees say there is something special when the holiday lands on a Sunday.

Still, he turns to GLIDE for a free meal.

No one is turned away.

It’s the same story for the non-profit Tenderloin Tessie, at the First Unitarian Universalist Society, where the Christmas lineup includes live entertainment with a singing drag performer and a piano player.

Folks can pick out a new outfit to keep warm this winter; shoes, gloves, and umbrellas are included.

They can even get a free haircut after they sit down for a meal. They serve about 500 hundred plates.

"Any leftover food that we have goes to the shelters," Tenderloin Tessie Holiday Dinners president Michael Gagne said.

The non-profit will celebrate 50 years of giving next year and also host holiday meals on Easter and Thanksgiving.

The nearby St. Anthony Foundation served up another 1,500 meals, thanks to the team of 60 that sacrifice time away from their own families, so others can celebrate.

"When we give, we receive," organizer Bryan Young said. "So, the joy today is giving and, in turn, we have a great feeling of gratitude and happiness."