(ABC4 Utah) – Hundreds of Utah’s homeless and their children were treated to an early Christmas, Sunday night, in the Rio Grande neighborhood of 300 South 500 West.
Over three-hundred volunteers of all ages joined the non-profit organization, Soul Food USA, and served a hot chili dinner with cornbread, cake and hot cocoa, and handed out Christmas stockings filled with a hat, gloves, hand warmers and hygiene products.
“That special feeling when you hand somebody a bowl of food or a hand warmer and they just smile at you, it’s the nicest feeling,” said one of the teenagers who volunteered her time.
Soul Food USA was started by two sisters, Tara Sterling and Wendy Sterling-Gardiner, over six years ago, when they went around Downtown Salt Lake City and passed out thirty-six sandwiches.
“We decided that we wanted to do something positive and that we didn’t want to be held hostage by the idea that you have to do something grand in order to do something good,” said Sterling-Gardiner. “We decided to do what we could with what we had and it just sort of caught on and it just became this whole movement. That’s really what we want people to understand, that there’s so much that you can do even if you don’t have money and you can only give your ideas or your heart, there’s always a way to give something and it always matters.”
“Food nourishment can wear off anywhere from an hour to a day,” said Sterling. “But the act of kindness, the kindness of a stranger, what that can do for your soul, can last a lifetime.”
Santa Claus, who volunteers his time all year long, was at Sunday’s Christmas party with his decked out sleigh, to hand out toys, teddy bears and spread holiday joy. Santa told Good4Utah’s Brittany Johnson that he gives back because he knows first-hand what it means to not have much.
“When I was growing up I was one of the families that for Christmas we would get a little box and it would have a few oranges and it would have a few peanuts and it would have some hard candy and that was Christmas. So I know that side,” said Santa as he held back tears. “And I also know that you don’t have to have a lot of wonderful things to have a wonderful Christmas.”
According to its press release, the mission of Soul Food USA is to give food to hungry, hope to the lonely, to remind each person that no matter their circumstances, they still matter, and to inspire micro-humanitarianism on an individual level.
Soul Food USA holds events all year long and is always looking for volunteers. If you’d like to help, click here.