Uploaded: Wednesday, December 26, 2012, 7:40 AM
Updated: Wednesday, December 26, 2012, 7:48 AM
First responders, Naval Academy midshipmen offer Christmas Day help to needy
Toys distributed to S.F. children, hot meals dished out to 4,000 at St. Anthony's dining room
|Many San Francisco firefighters and police officers spent Christmas morning distributing new toys to thousands of the city's children, including more than 7,000 toys collected at Lefty O'Doul's annual Christmas Eve toy drive.
The toys that were distributed Tuesday were given to people like an Excelsior District mother whose gifts were stolen shortly before Christmas. Picking up gifts from Lefty O'Doul's saved Christmas for her five children, Lefty O'Doul's spokesman Lee Houskeeper said.
Some were also distributed at the city jail by a San Francisco police officer who goes there every year and makes sure the children visiting their fathers or mothers in custody receive gifts.
Another bunch of presents were given out with the help of Supervisor-elect London Breed, who helped distribute the toys at the Plaza East apartments in the city's Western Addition neighborhood where she grew up, Houskeeper said.
The toys were collected throughout the month by the San Francisco Firefighters Toy Program, which aims to provide toys to 44,000 children in need every year, according to president of the San Francisco firefighters' union Tom O'Connor.
O'Connor said that Lefty O'Doul's annual Christmas Eve toy drive collects about 5 to 10 percent of the toys they distribute every year.
Lefty O'Doul's managed to accumulate more than 7,000 toys this year, well short of their stated goal of 15,000, but still a challenging pile of toys to sort and distribute.
The toys were gathered over a 20-hour period beginning at 6 a.m. and ending at last call there. New, unwrapped gifts were dropped off by passers-by, the Luxor cab company, which will pick up toys anywhere in the city on Christmas Eve, and U.S. Marines dropping off boxes from their Toys for Tots program.
At least one of the Marines who helped drop off gifts, Brian Alvarez, currently on leave from Afghanistan, also stuck around to help sort the toys throughout the day and into the night.
Alvarez worked his way through the packed Lefty's to bring the gifts in and sort them. With customers three deep at the bar, standing in the
food line, and a band blaring through the house, trying to carry boxes and barrels of toys through the crowded bar is "sort of like a ballet,"
While the exact number of toys collected is difficult to estimate, Houskeeper said that it appears that the toy drive fell short of what it was last year, but made up for it in the quality and generosity of gifts.
"The quality was better" than previous years, he said. "The quantity wasn't as much as we had hoped for, but the quality was incredible."
He said that the presents at the end of the day included chrome bicycles, motorized trucks and about 10 stuffed white unicorns that stood three feet tall.
As the toys were being distributed, members of the U.S. Naval Academy's football squad, dressed in
navy blue tracksuits, poured hot chocolate from pitchers Tuesday morning for hundreds who lined up in downtown San Francisco for the annual Christmas Day meal at St. Anthony's dining room.
Inside the room at 150 Golden Gate Avenue, other Navy Midshipmen began loading trays with sliced honey baked ham, sweet potatoes and orange Kool-Aid for the first of 4,000 diners expected for the day, according to St. Anthony's spokesman Karl Robillard.
About 100 Navy players, coaches and staff dished up holiday meals for the needy at St. Anthony's as part of yearly charitable effort by organizers of the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, a college gridiron game that this year will pit Navy versus Arizona State at AT&T Park on Saturday.
"It's the only collegiate football game with a philanthropic cause," said Robillard, adding that Arizona State's team is handing out holiday meals to the poor Tuesday at the Glide Memorial Church at 330 Ellis St.
The Kraft Hunger Bowl football contest has been played at AT&T since 2002, and this is the third year that teams selected for the bowl have served Christmas meals at St. Anthony's and Glide, Kraft bowl spokesman Doug Kelly said.
Colin Osborne, a Navy freshman running back, dressed in his dark blue tracksuit and wearing plastic serving gloves, said the team, based in
Annapolis, Md., has been in San Francisco since Saturday and still feels jetlagged from its cross-country flight.
"I don't see it as a chore," Osborne, 20, said of the team's call to provide for the poor. "It's definitely for them, like we're Santa Claus,
giving them food and helping them enjoy their Christmas."
"Us being in the Navy, we always want to help the community," Osborne said. "We are doing a good thing sacrificing our time. You get to socialize, meet new people."
Sitting at a table covered by a green tablecloth and beneath white paper snowflakes hanging overhead, Carliss "Smoky" Dorsey, 62, looked down at his dinner tray amid the din of loud conversation in the somewhat cramped dining room.
Dorsey, 62, a native of New Orleans, moved to Austin, Texas, in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina devastated his hometown and has visited San
Francisco off and on since, and is now living at the St. Vincent de Paul-MSC South shelter at 525 Fifth Street.
"I'm blessed that the good Lord let me live another day and I appreciate what other people are doing for me and many others," Dorsey said.
— Bay City News Service
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