The Main Stream

Oct 5, 2009 8:36 PM

Tucsonan making a difference for the homeless

It's an event that takes place year after year. It's the annual holiday dinner for the Salvation Army. Last year, volunteers served nearly 4,000 meals in Tucson to homeless and others in need.

Tamara Mack with the Salvation Army says, "People certainly recognize us most for the holiday programs that we put on." It is, however, a busy organization all year round. "The Army is a year round program and we work with seniors and we work with youth."

She, of course, acknowledges that the holiday season receives the most attention and demands a lot of time.

At last year's event, more people than ever ate the free dinner. That's why volunteers are even more important this year and one man stands out from others.

"Volunteers like Abe come out year after year and it's an amazing part of what we do. Salvation Army can't operate without the incredible dedication of the volunteers that we have."

Abe Valenzuela, Jr. and his family started volunteering in 1989. His daughters were four and six years old at the time.

Valenzuela wanted to start a family tradition and allow his children to see and meet others who weren't as blessed as his family. "They saw the children that Santa was giving these bags to. They were the bags that they filled to give to homeless children."

The family now spends every Christmas morning at the dinner. "They're used to not opening gifts on Christmas. Christmas morning usually everyone gathers around for their gift giving all that other stuff so thats not what we do. What we do is go serve that breakfast in the morning."

Valenzuela wants others to share their gifts with the community in any way they can at the holiday event.

"The message I would give to other people is try it one time. One time and it's all it takes. The first time you do it you're going to love it." For Valenzuela and his family, the best things in life are indeed free.

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