PHOENIX — Christmas is a time for giving. Despite the pandemic, local organizations are giving more than ever on Christmas Day. The Nick Lowery Youth Foundation and St. Vincent de Paul held their 15th consecutive Christmas Champions event to serve the homeless.
People formed lines to get their Christmas meal and gifts this year in order to adhere to safety protocols. It looked quite different compared to last year, when people were packed inside the dining room, close together, hugging. But, the message every year is the same: we're all in this together.
Erika "Bella" Navarrette says she has so much to be thankful for this Christmas; including the organizations behind the 15th annual Christmas Champions event.
“In the end, we would have nothing without them,” says Erika "Bella" Navarrette, formerly homeless.
They have helped her get back on her feet. Now, she is working to get back custody of her children.
Even when she was suffering from COVID-19 last month, she never lost hope.
“Do it for your kids, get better for your kids. God was there the whole time fighting for me,” says Navarrette.
She's been homeless twice before and is hoping to inspire others by sharing her story.
“Trying to help the community, trying to help the homelessness because I know how it feels to have nothing, you know?” says Navarette.
Former NFL star Nick Lowery says we have to do more than ever to put a halt to the sharp increase in shelter-less homelessness and suicide. The Champions for the Homeless has put on 52 events in 15 years.
“Do as much as possible, reach as many people as we can,” says Nick Lowery, who runs the Nick Lowery Youth Foundation.
They are doing just that.
St. Vincent de Paul helped get Sharelle Countz her own place a year ago.
“I was very grateful and now I show them that. Whatever they ask me to do here, with volunteering, I will do,” says Sharelle Countz, formerly homeless turned volunteer.
That is the reason she volunteered to serve on Christmas Day.
“We try to be a place where there is no difference between those who have something to give and those who have a need. People can do both at once,” says Jessica Berg, chief program officer, St. Vincent de Paul.
Jessica Berg with St. Vincent de Paul says more people are on the verge of homelessness because of the pandemic. They are ready to welcome them with open arms.