Church Services, Help for Homeless Planned for Christmas

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Christmas in Los Angeles County today will include Masses and church services celebrating the birth of Jesus and annual events providing meals to the homeless and poor.

English-language Masses will be celebrated at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Archbishop Jose H. Gomez will celebrate the 12:30 p.m. Spanish-language Mass, with the Spanish-language choir leading in song.

The Spanish-language Mass will be livestreamed on the Cathedral's Facebook page, facebook.com/olacathedral, and YouTube channel, youtube.com/olacathedral.

Gomez will also celebrate a Mass with general population inmates at the Men's Central Jail.

“Let us make this our Christmas prayer -- that we will open our hearts to the gift of Jesus,” Gomez wrote in his column published on Angelus News, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles' news website.

“May we grow in our compassion for our neighbors, especially the youngest and most vulnerable among us.”

Nearly 2,000 homeless and near-homeless men, women and children will be served a Christmas brunch at The Midnight Mission beginning at 8 a.m.

There will also be a Santa's Village where children will be able to select toys of their choice and meet Santa Claus.

Families began lining up Monday night to secure their places in line.

“We appreciate The Midnight Mission because unfortunately we can't afford the toys of these days,” Wayne Mingo, who came to the mission with seven children from his family, told NBC4. “Toys are expensive.”

Mingo said he and his family members were “having fun, socializing with other people” in the line.

The Christmas brunch and toy giveaway “will provide our homeless and near-homeless guests not only with a traditional holiday meal, but also with the emotional satisfaction that comes with the opportunity to celebrate a national holiday,” said Georgia Berkovich, the mission's director of public affairs.

“Of the many services The Midnight Mission provides to our unique community, one of the most important is the sense of family we offer to those who often feel lost and forgotten during the holidays and other days of celebration.”

The mission is seeking donations of $5 to $10 to defray the costs of the Christmas brunch meals. Donations can be made by texting the keyword “Meals” to 71777 from any cellphone.

Organizers of the annual interfaith Christmas Dinner for the Homeless and Hungry at Hollywood United Methodist Church hope to serve 1,500 people.

More than 100 roasted turkeys with stuffing, mashed potatoes, vegetables, cranberry sauce and a host of desserts will be served from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. to retirees, homeless people, working families with young children and other hungry and needy individuals and families, organizers said.

Diners will receive bags filled with personal care items, new socks, hats and blankets. Children will receive toys, their choice of a book and have the opportunity to have a family picture taken with Santa Claus.

The Christmas Dinner was originally a project of the Hollywood Interfaith Coalition, whose churches had been serving Thanksgiving dinner.

Some of the coalition's Jewish participants thought it would be a nice idea for the Jewish participants to take over the serving of Christmas Dinner so the members of the coalition celebrating and observing Christmas could stay home with their families.

Temple Israel of Hollywood became the lead organizer and host of the event in the 1980s

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