PARKLAND, FL- Dozens of local residents joined Parkland community organizer Heather Khalil's volunteer team serving the homeless on Saturday in Fort Lauderdale. In conjunction with Hope South Florida, Khalil's volunteers hosted a beautiful Christmas celebration with over 200 people in need this holiday season. Khalil serves as the lead coordinator to connect the community of Parkland with area organizations such as Hope South Florida, whose mission is to “build hope, build housing, and build community” for the local homeless population. 

Michele Allison, another leader from the Parkland team, jumped into the mix to help guide the process today. Around 100 Parkland community members donated the supplies: backpacks, clothing, toiletries, brown bag lunches, blankets, personal hygiene items and more. "It’s such a blessing to be able to help others," Allison shared. "We have a wonderful community of people who prioritize helping people in need. It is especially gratifying around the holidays. I look forward to this event every year."

Community leaders, including Mayor Hunschofsky and City Commissioner Rich Walker, were on hand to participate and serve. The guests were bussed to the church from a number of locations around Dade and Broward counties. They had a chance to shop through piles of gently used clothing and get haircuts while live Christmas music was being performed in the background. Guests were treated to breakfast upon arrival and ended the day with a Mexican food feast donated by Parkland community members, including endless Christmas cookie treats for dessert. Rich Walker and his wife, Catherine, also joined the party dressed as Santa and Mrs. Claus. At the end of the celebration, hundreds of backpacks filled with supplies were donated; one for each person that attended the event. 

"I applaud Heather Khalil and all of her tremendous volunteers. It's wonderful to be part of her group," shared Commissioner Walker. "It's a special feeling to help someone less fortunate. Seeing their faces light up, if for even just a short time, truly embodies the holiday spirit."