WALNUT CREEK -- St. Paul's Episcopal Church's Trinity Center is serving up more than Christmas dinner for the poor and homeless in the Walnut Creek area on Dec. 20.

"Our goal includes building a sense of belonging; a sense of connection to others," Rev. Sylvia Vasquez said.

Those ties link donors, volunteers, other churches, Girl Scouts, Rotary Clubs and nonprofit groups such as Adopt-A-Family Bikes and Creek Kids Care, a nonprofit youth community service organization, to the people they serve.

"People who come to the Trinity Center say, 'It is a place where someone knows my name. I am not invisible here,' " volunteer Donna Colombo explains.

The people who come to St. Paul's Dec. 20 to celebrate Christmas -- between 50 and 70 guests are expected -- are in for some happy surprises.

"We get a wish list of practical and impractical items," said Laura Halpin, president and co-founder of Creek Kids Care.

"There are 53 homeless people who participated this year," Halpin remarked. "It is educational for the children. It humanizes (the homeless) when we see what they want.

"Kids can see the impact of their service," she added. "Over the years (since 2004), we have come to know the homeless and they know the Creek Kids. Some of our high-school-age volunteers started in the third grade."


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Clothes, sleeping bags, tents and tarps are always welcome, but sometimes the homeless might wish for a gift card for gasoline or the movies. "A theater is a warm place to stay for a few hours," according to Halpin.

The gift of a bicycle can become transportation to a job interview for a homeless person or a way to reach the Trinity Center. Tania Hanson-DeYoung organizes an annual drive to collect and refurbish bikes for those in need through the Adopt-A-Family Bikes program, developed at St. Timothy's Episcopal Church.

"When I delivered one bike, a man gave me a hug and said, 'Thank you. Now I don't have to be on my feet all the time.'," Hanson-DeYoung said. "Just think of it. He was on his feet all the time."

If You Go
Christmas Meal
WHEN: Thursday, Dec. 20, starts at 1 p.m.
WHERE: Parish Hall, St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 1924 Trinity Ave., Walnut Creek
All are welcome