For those without a home or family for Christmas, Tyler nonprofits offered an alternative with their Christmas meals and events.
“I don’t get to be with my family, but the people here (at The Salvation Army) have become my family,” said Tricia Ciaruffoli, 33, who has been staying at the facility for three weeks while she gets back on her feet financially and gets out of an abusive home situation. “This is going to be one of the best Christmases. It’s a blessing to be here.”
The Salvation Army held its Christmas brunch on Christmas Eve, and Highway 80 Rescue Mission held events for the homeless and disadvantaged earlier this week. The organizations estimated to have served hundreds of low-income residents.
More than 70 volunteers signed up to help at The Salvation Army event.
One group of volunteers, the Smith family, decided to surprise Murray Smith, “the family patriarch,” with a trip to serve others for Smith’s 63rd birthday.
“What do you give a man who has everything he needs and wants?” said Simon Smith, Smith’s oldest son. “We decided he’d like an opportunity to serve; he’s known for his heart.”
The family came to the event dressed head to toe as Christmas elves.
“They said to dress festively,” said Ericka Smith, Smith’s daughter-in-law. “We take that seriously. We want to spread Christmas cheer.”