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Holiday cheer for thousands in Santa Rosa

  • Tyler Kish, 8, makes a wreath at the arts and crafts table during the Christmas Celebration held at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, Saturday, December 22, 2012.

    (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

Kenny Lambert kept on his knit hat but shed his shoes and socks Saturday, rolled up his pant legs and settled into a chair to soak his feet in a warm foot bath, one of several lined up in a corner of Grace Pavilion at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.

His jacket and backpack lay nearby, evidence of a life on the road that led him from the Pacific Northwest to Santa Rosa five days earlier, unaware he'd be receiving soothing foot care from a complete stranger within the week.

But it was, he said, an "awesome" luxury to be treated to the services available Saturday as part of the annual celebration and feast hosted by the Redwood Gospel Mission and Salvation Army at the fairgrounds.

Christmas Celebration

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"They have stuff like this in Tacoma and Seattle," said Lambert, 30. "But it's nothing like this."

Around the cavernous building, hundreds of people in need lined up for services that might otherwise be beyond reach — haircuts, warm coats, pictures with Santa, Christmas trees, bags of presents, boxed food — all provided by volunteers eager to serve.

Saul Urbano, a Santa Rosa man who came with his wife and two daughters, said it was like many blessings all at once.

"The environment is awesome," said Monica Briceno, 28, also of Santa Rosa. "Everybody treats you with kindness and respect."

Stations around the building included face painting and a jumpy house for kids; clothing racks with 1,000 donated coats and jackets for all comers; an area where St. Joseph's Health personnel offered free blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose screening, as well as flu shots and referrals for free or affordable follow-up care when problems are detected.

"Unfortunately, lot of people have abnormal results," said Jackie Williams, a supervisor with the St. Joseph's Mobile Health Clinic.

Frank Rundle, 74, enjoyed getting a free haircut and beard trim, as well as heavy coat to help keep him warm.


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