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Mayor Villaraigosa and County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas join celebrities in distributing toys. Photo by Viola Sigers By Cora Jackson-FossettSentinel Religion Editor
The line appeared to extend for miles as 5,000 people waited to receive free groceries, toys and clothing on December 11th at Bryant Temple A.M.E. Church in Los Angeles.L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa joined Rev. Dr. Clyde Oden, pastor of Bryant Temple, and more than 300 volunteers at the "Angel City Christmas" event to distribute the items."We partnered with the City of L.A., First 5 L.A. Rotary Club, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, as well as several churches and agencies to provide this wonderful blessing to the community," said Dr. Oden."The large number of people who lined up illustrates just how tough times are. So many people are unemployed and have cutbacks in their family income. This is when people really need help and this was a great opportunity for us to assist them."The contributors included volunteers from AmeriCorp, Bank of America, LDS Church, Los Angeles Dodgers, Kaiser Hospital and 100 members of Bryant Temple. Also, L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Actor/Director Robert Townsend, Actor Danny Trejo, Recording Artist Solange Knowles along with other celebrities, donated gifts and their time to distribute to the crowd.In addition, the word of this event reached Los Angeles Dodgers General Manager, Ned Colletti, who brought several hundred new cameras and Dodger hats for the youth. Also, Costco donated hundreds of pastries and UHaul donated a large truck for transportation for three days.Visibly noticeable at the gathering was the peacefulness during the day-long event. "Everyone waited patiently," said Dr. Oden. "Although we didn't formally advertise the giveaway, the word spread around and some people were camped out as early as 3 a.m. But they waited quietly for five hours until we began the distribution. God smiled on us with the weather and we began promptly at 8:30am."The recipients reflected the diversity of the city. African Americans, Latinos, whites and other ethnic groups stood in line to receive a bag of groceries, one toy per child, and new clothes if desired."We had a virtual rainbow of all of God's children. Still, throughout the day, there were no fights, no arguments, no stabbings, no shootings, no nothing, no violence at all. It was wonderful. No one was turned away and God got the praise out of all of it."However, each person did receive a request from the church to become an ambassador for peace. "We asked everyone to join us in praying for peace in the neighborhood so that there will be no more gunfire or violence in the 'hood."Planning for Angel City Christmas took two months of meetings and coordination, but all of the organizations willingly participated. An inventory of the donated revealed thousands of bags of groceries, toys, cameras, new clothing, school supplies and books"In fact, when some of our partners saw the reception from the community, they wanted to know how they can contribute in the future. The Mayor and our new corporate partners are committed to an annual Angel City Christmas in this community. Our goal is to continue to hold these types of programs to assist people," Dr. Oden said.