Thousands of needy people Wednesday enjoyed Christmas dinner a day early on Christmas Eve as city officials and Hollywood celebrities served up holiday meals at a charity agency in downtown Los Angeles.
Job losses and home foreclosures have forced more people to turn to the Los Angeles Mission, which saw an increase of 10 percent in meals served in the fall months this year, as compared to last year, said Herbert Smith, president of the agency.
Meanwhile, donations from the final quarter are down 15 percent as everyone feels the economic hardship, according to Smith.
"We've got a crisis," said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who helped to dish up meals at the mission Wednesday.
An estimated 3,000 holiday meals were served and gifts were distributed to about 600 children during the Christmas Eve event, charity officials said.
Villaraigosa stood side-by-side with newly elected county Los Angles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas in the serving line. Ridley-Thomas, whose district includes South Los Angeles, vowed that county and city officials would collaborate to address homelessness.
The family of Hollywood actor Bruce Boxleitner and his wife, actress Melissa Gilbert, hosted the holiday dinner.