FOR ONE NIGHT, Christmas Eve at that, some of Dallas’ homeless were treated to a red carpet treatment. Dallas Omni Hotel, in cooperation with local charity The SoupMobile, hosted more than 500 homeless men, women and children for the night for its annual Celebrate Jesus Christmas event.
Each guest received a free room for the night, a banquet in their honor and a free movie. They also attended a church service.
“If you have it every day, you don’t think about it, you take it for granted,” Lisa Kelso, one of the homeless guests of honor, told a local NBC affiliate. “Except for the churches and the people who come out and pass out food, we don’t get a lot of ‘I love you’ and ‘I miss you’.”
David Timothy, aka “The Soup Man,” and executive director and founder of SoupMobile, said he had the idea for the event in 2005. Or, rather, Jesus had the idea and gave it to him at that time.
“It always bothered me that I had a great Christmas every year but the homeless in Dallas had little or no Christmas,” Timothy said. “I could no longer live with the fact that my Christmas was wonderful but the very people we served were literally left out in the cold.”
The Omni Hotel joined the event in 2012, said the hotel’s marketing manager Amber Bufkin after Timothy approached the hotel.
‘It’s a humbling experience to see the faces of the homeless able to enjoy a night and holiday meal at the Omni Dallas,” said the hotel’s Managing Director John Imaizumi. “It’s a reminder that none of us should ever take what we have for granted.”
The Omni plans to continue the event for the foreseeable future, but they also participate in several other outreach programs, said Bufkin. They participate in the Omni companywide “Say Goodnight to Hunger” program in which they donate a meal to a family in need for every room booked directly through the hotel’s website.
Groups of volunteers from the hotel also volunteer weekly at local food and clothing bank Crossroads, Bufkin said. And, they hold bake sales and other fundraising events for the American Heart Association on a regular basis.
And the hotel’s concern for its special Christmas Eve guests doesn’t end after one night. “David Timothy keeps us informed of success stories and how the gala has inspired our guests to make a better life for themselves,” Bufkin said.