Christmas Eve event combines food, physical and spiritual warmth

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- It was a cold Christmas Eve in the Milwaukee area -- and while it was possible we may see some snow flurries overnight and into Christmas, the big weather story was COLD temperatures! Temperatures during the afternoon and evening were in the single digits to the teens -- and the cold is expected to stick around in the coming days. This kind of cold can be dangerous -- especially for those without a place to live or stay.

Volunteers stood in the cold on Christmas Eve at Saint Vincent de Paul Church -- providing about 400 people the gift of warmth. Two Milwaukee churches teamed up for an annual Christmas dinner, followed by a coat and blanket giveaway.

Pastor Tony Vento says the outdoor Christmas Eve service aims at helping people in two ways.

"We`re taking care of the people physically, but also addressing their spiritualness and their spiritual poverty," Pastor Vento said.

The line of about 400 people listened to Pastor Vento's 15-minute sermon.

After that, they passed through several different stations, loading up their bags with blankets, sleeping bags, hats and gloves.

"I can make these out of gifts and give these as gifts for them. They`d be very happy. You know, it doesn`t matter. They don`t care. As long as they get a gift from Dad, they`re happy," Leonard Holmes said.

Holmes was one of hundreds who received items during the Christmas Eve event.

Shalom Ministries handled the giveaway on Tuesday. The organization works with Saint Vincent de Paul Church, which serves dinner six nights a week.

Although there are often familiar faces here, strangers came in on the eve of Christmas to break bread and get out of the cold.

"For me, it`s an honor. I love doing what I do. I love it when people come and eat. It`s open to the community. Everybody is welcome," Pastor Vento said.

Pastor Vento says volunteers came from as far away as Wausau to help out on Tuesday night.

The two churches have been doing this every Christmas Eve for 11 years. This year, donors provided about 500 blankets and sleeping bags and nearly 1,000 coats.