With Christmas carols in the air and shop windows filled with expensive luxuries, the holiday season can be especially painful for the poor, the hungry, the homeless. As a result, local churches have banded together to provide special services to the needy not only on Christmas, but year-round as well.
The alliance of five Garden Grove churches is called Real Help, and it sponsors a "Food in the Afternoon" program that provides free hot meals five days a week at places of worship throughout the city.
"It started close to two years ago," said Bonnie J. Miller, 42, program manager in charge of emergency services for the Lutheran Social Services in Garden Grove. "We had a Christmas dinner, and it was such an overwhelming success, we decided that we could do more."
Five churches formed Real Help, and started the "Afternoon" program, rotating the site on a daily basis. On Monday, the host is Crossroads Community Church, 8642 Westminster Ave., from 6 to 8 p.m.
On succeeding days the following churches serve meals from 2 to 4 p.m.: Tuesday, the United Methodist Church, 12741 Main St.; Wednesday, St. Anselm's Episcopal Church, 13091 Galway St.; Thursday, Garden Grove Friends Church, 12211 Magnolia Ave., and, on Friday, the Chapman Avenue Baptist Church, 10241 Chapman Ave.
All the cooking and serving is done by volunteers, many of them retirees.
The program has grown from feeding about 15 people a day to feeding nearly 100 a day, many coming not just for a meal but to socialize. The clientele includes many senior citizens living on fixed incomes.
Real Help is planning another full-scale Christmas Day dinner for the United Methodist site in downtown Garden Grove. The member churches donate money for the effort, as have various civic and social groups such as the Women's Civic Club of Garden Grove and the local chapter of the American Assn. of Retired Persons.
Other Garden Grove churches are cooperating in the effort, giving money or food. People or groups willing to make a donation should contact Lutheran Social Services at 12432 9th St. in Garden Grove or phone (714) 534-6450.