BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Amid the festivities and gift giving, some local residents decided to give back to those in need Christmas Day.
Volunteers gathered at the Bakersfield Homeless Center to serve a meal of ham, mashed potatoes, veggies, gingerbread cookies and other items to those down on their luck. Paul Galloway said he and his mother decided to spend the day giving back.
"I've been wanting to do this for a while," Galloway said.
He said he's just grateful he can help out, and he was hoping his wisecracks would put a smile on people's faces. He certainly accomplished that in the kitchen, calling people by wrong names, talking about his various jobs and in general cracking everyone up.
Jon Crawford focused on slicing bread while talking with Galloway and others as they prepared the meal. Crawford said he and his wife don't have family in town, so they decided to pitch in at the center.
He said volunteering keeps him in mind of the blessings he's been given.
This marked the second year Annette Charlton helped prepare the meal. She said last year at least 150 people showed up.
A lot of people get stressed out during the holidays, but she said helping others puts everything in perspective and provides a sense of peace.
Lynda Ozuna, a dorm monitor at the center, said some people just walked off the street Wednesday morning and donated gifts. She said the giving is "kind of an all day thing."
More people help out during the holidays, but she said the center is in need of items like blankets and toothbrushes year round.
"Personal hygiene items go a long way," she said.
Monica Roman said she's grateful for the help. Her 4-month-old daughter, Brianna, received a doll and other toys at the center Wednesday morning. About 80 children received gifts.
Brianna was wearing a dress with the words "Christmas Cutie" on the front that she also received from the center.
Roman said she's gotten to know a lot of people since she started staying at the center in early November. She's made a lot of friends.
"You get close, like family," she said.