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Hands-on service draws Utah family to Christmas dinner for needy

Published December 25, 2013 7:13 pm

500 volunteers turn out to serve dinners, distribute clothing to some 1,500 people at Christmas event.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

For the second year running, there were no presents under the Singleton Christmas tree.

Instead, Phil Singleton, his wife, Nan, and four of their five children loaded up the family truck with 1,200 pounds of clothing and hygiene kits — donations from family, friends and their Mormon ward in Glenwood (just outside Richfield) — and spent Christmas Day serving meals at Salt Lake City Mission's annual holiday dinner.

"A few years ago, we were talking about how Christmas has become too commercialized," Phil Singleton said. "We talked with the kids and wanted to try giving instead of getting."

The Singletons were among 500 volunteers serving turkey dinners, distributing clothing and toys, and spreading holiday cheer at the Mission's 20th annual Christmas Day Dinner.

Long after the lunch hour, hundreds of people — including many families with children — gathered both inside and outside the Christian Life Center, 1055 N. Redwood Road where the dinner was staged. People sifted through tables of sweaters, coats and socks. Volunteers balanced trays of dinners and desserts. Children danced as a woman sang "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas."

Salt Lake City Mission spokesman Brad Jaques said more than 1,500 people attended this year's event. Lewis Brothers Coach donated buses to bring in homeless individuals and families from across the valley, stopping at the Road Home and the Rescue Mission downtown, the overflow shelter in Midvale and transitional housing centers such as Palmer Court.

"This is a labor of love," Jaques said. "We're one big happy family down here and we want everyone to know that they're loved."

It's a family the Singletons want to continue to be part of.

Phil Singleton, an IT director, credited his wife for putting the season's spirit of giving into action, admitting that he "wouldn't have been too excited" to forgo Christmas gifts as a kid. But after last year's positive experience, the children pushed for another run.

In fact, he said 8-year-old Britton started asking if they could do it again way back in June.

Jaques said the mission is distributing three to four times as many food boxes a day than last year, and tough times are bringing more families to the mission, so he's grateful for support from the community.

Singleton said the feeling is mutual. One of the men Singleton met, Toby, shared his down-on-his-luck trials, but also his optimism about getting off the street soon.

"My kids enjoy the ability to go up and not just talk about service, but actually see the results," Singleton said. "That was a good experience."

jnpearce@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jnpearce —

New Year's Day Dinner

The Salt Lake City Mission will host a New Year's Day Dinner on Wednesday, Jan. 1 from 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m. at The Christian Life Center,

1055 N. Redwood Road, Salt Lake City. Lewis Brothers Coach will provide bus service from the Road Home, the overflow shelter in Midvale and various transitional housing units.

For more information about the dinner, donations and volunteer opportunities, call (801) 355-6310 or visit www.saltlakecitymission.org">http://www.saltlakecitymission.org.