What do Buddy Hackett and 250 glazed hams have in common?
Their appearances Friday afternoon were among the highlights of the annual Christmas Eve luncheon for Skid Row residents at the Los Angeles Mission.
In all, more than 3,000 needy people were treated to a traditional holiday meal in the mission's dining hall, served up by celebrity waiters including Hackett, Tom Selleck, Ed Asner, Audrey Meadows, Dean Jones, Ray Conniff and Laraine Newman.
"People on the streets have a very difficult time of it," mission spokeswoman Jeanne Galloway said. "It's time for them to have a Christmas celebration too."
The bountiful lunch, which also included gifts of toys for children and toiletries for adults, was only one of many holiday giveaways across the Southland for families in need.
At the East Los Angeles sheriff's station, deputies presented a gleaming new bicycle and other gifts to an 11-year-old Cudahy boy, Cesar Romero, who had his bike stolen at gunpoint last month.
In Huntington Park, the city police officers' association distributed Christmas dinner baskets to 10 needy families.
In Watts, the Lighthouse Church of God and Christ conducted its fourth annual community Christmas program, including a food and clothing giveaway for about 2,000 residents.
In Compton, toys and other donated items were presented to the mother and two sisters of Stephanie Riggins, a 16-month-old girl who died in a Christmas tree fire last weekend.
And in Anaheim, a 5-year-old youngster with lymphatic cancer received his ultimate Christmas dream Friday--a $1,000 shopping spree at a Toys R Us outlet.
Eduardo Armendariz, a shy, tousle-haired boy, couldn't stop smiling as he rode to the toy store in the front seat of a police car and proceeded to fill his shopping cart with the assistance of Santa Claus.
"I can't tell you how much he loves the police," said Eduardo's mother, Argentina. "When he and his father are out, if Eduardo sees a police car he will make his father stop so he can wave at the policeman."
The spree was organized by the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Orange County, and also included a limousine ride to McDonald's for a breakfast of hash browns and a TV appearance.
"I'm very grateful for what everybody has done," said Elias Armendariz, the boy's father, as tears welled in his eyes. "I'm so happy because he's happy. But I am also sad because I don't know when he is going to leave."
A social worker told the foundation about Eduardo two weeks ago. The youngster's first wish was to visit his uncle in El Salvador, but the organization's rules prohibit children under 12 from traveling outside the United States. "Then we found out how much he loves policemen and Power Rangers. So we came up with this idea," Make-a-Wish volunteer Mel Slavick said.
Eduardo wasted no time filling his shopping cart with crayons, Aladdin and Genie dolls, a Barbie doll and a stuffed Barney the dinosaur for his sisters, two Power Ranger dolls, and, of course, a toy police car.