Homeless find warm hearts, hot meal at St. Peter’s Christmas dinner

COLUMBIA — For the 13th straight Christmas, it will be “Destination St. Peter’s” for homeless people in the capital city of South Carolina. The St. Vincent de Paul Society will host its annual dinner and gift exchange on Dec. 25 from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. at St. Peter Church on Assembly Street.

The parish expects about 500 people to have a warm welcome and Christmas dinner in Murphy Hall. Robert Keeder, spokesman for the Vincentian conference, said that this year volunteers will also carry hot turkey and ham dinners to the Alston-Wilkes Home for Vietnam Veterans, Providence Home (for recovering alcoholics) and Olivia’s Boarding House (a senior home).

Keeder is also involved in the massive Thanksgiving Feast at the Carolina Coliseum; that event’s Adopt-A-Turkey program was so successful that extra turkeys will be roasted for Christmas.

“We received donations to buy 561 turkeys this year, up about a hundred from the year before. It was such a huge success that we have enough left over to go with the 20 spiral hams we’re buying,” Keeder said.

In addition to a full Christmas meal, guests of St. Peter will be given new sweatshirts, socks, T-shirts (thanks to apparel business owner Jack Wess), gloves, toiletries, fruit and a stocking full of candy. Nearly everything is donated or purchased with donated money.

Another example of the kinds of help received comes from Rebeka’s Garden in the Columbia farmer’s market. Bill and Rebeka Cline read about the annual Christmas dinner six years ago and about all the volunteers who assist the Vincentians. They wanted to help in their own way, Keeder said.

“They said they have poinsettias left over, and they wanted to use them to decorate the hall. So eight to 10 em-ployees come over when they close on Christmas Eve every year and do that. They make the place beautiful, even putting wreaths on the doors. That’s their way of giving,” Keeder said.

The homeless people who come to Christmas at St. Peter appreciate the Christian charity involved, he said. “They sense the goodness.”

Call Keeder at (803) 796-9802 for more information.