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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Hot cocoa warms 3-year-old Josenia Lucero while her mother, Jovalee, and sister Brigit sit behind her.

Many of the volunteers at the Christian Life Center Mission Christmas morning were giving back in a way they had once received.

Each year, the Salt Lake City Mission Non-Denominational Christian Discipleship for Men feeds 2,000 to 3,000 people in need on each major holiday—providing transportation, food, clothes and hope to those with challenges.

Seven years ago, Brad Jaques, assistant director of development at the Salt Lake City Mission, was in the hospital after a suicide attempt. "I knew I needed a better connection with God. I prayed and prayed and it was like God was in the room, saying, "Go to the (Salt Lake City) Mission," Jaques said.

Jaques went through a program offered at the mission and was able to turn his life around. Since then, he said, there are not any words to describe the change that happened in his life. He, like many of the other volunteers, is now helping others who may be in the same situations that he once faced, to find hope and change.

Beginning at 7 a.m, two Lewis Brother buses began traveling to local rescue missions, road home sites and shelters to pick up and drive those in need to the Central Christian Church in Salt Lake City.

But there was more than a full Christmas dinner being served. Donated clothing, sleeping bags and more than 1,000 coats were distributed to those who needed them, all to the tunes of a live band. Calling cards, donated by Verizon were distributed so many could call home and wish their families and loved ones a Merry Christmas.

Because the mission is neither state nor federally funded, the entire event is made possible by contributions from the community.

"Clothes come from volunteers, the Boy Scouts and just many other good-hearted people in Salt Lake," Jaques said. "The food comes from the Food Bank and this year, Honeybaked Ham made a large donation."

However, aside from the much-needed items and food that are distributed, the mission provides ways for people to make a change in lifestyle and learn to help themselves. People are available to meet with and assess the needs of those who sincerely want to make life changes and to help them make necessary changes. Support is offered throughout the process..

"Homelessness is something that happens every day of the year," Jaques said. "The most satisfying thing is to see someone's life change and know that what we came here to do is worthwhile."

To make a donation or volunteer call: 801-355-6310 or visit: www.saltlakecitymission.org.

Email: hloftus@desnews.com