City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell (D-3) hosted her office’s 18th annual Holiday Party for the Homeless, at the Convention Center on Wednesday evening.
Organizers estimated that more than 5,000 people were served at the event, which featured a turkey dinner prepared by the Keven Parker Company, a children’s gift and bike giveaway, free youth haircuts and entertainment, including a dj, dancing, face painting and Santa visits for youth.
“I started working on this event when my late husband, Lucien E. Blackwell, held the 3rd District Councilmanic seat. At that time, our party was at 3801 Market Street. We quickly outgrew that facility, and now the only place that can accommodate the over 4,000 participants is the Pennsylvania Convention Center,” said Blackwell.
“I know that if we do our part to make life better for others - people who are homeless, people who are having bad times, people who don’t know how they are going to do Christmas, then when you sit down with your own family you have a right to enjoy it because you know you’ve made life better for other people - that’s what life is about. This is my mission - serving other people, especially those people in need. [It’s] what God gave me to do. It means more to me than anything else I do in my job as an elected official.”
Blackwell added that she was “grateful” for the hundreds of volunteers that helped serve and coordinate, including staff from PENN Medicine and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who wrapped thousands of children’s gifts for the giveaway. On the day of the event, while they double checked and rewrapped gifts, families, children and individuals filled a stadium sized room - eating dinner, dancing, and fellowshipping, while Hip-Hop and line dancing music played in the background.
“It’s nice, lovely,” said Felicia Jones, a North Philadelphia mother who attended with her daughter, sister and a group of friends. “It’s open and different people that don’t know each other, interact. Some of us in the city have and some of us don’t, but they invite everybody.”
The homeless and families living in shelters from all across the city were served at the holiday party, as well as others who just wanted to participate in a community event.
Kevin Millington, a gentleman who did not specify his living situation, said he enjoyed the food and the music.
“It gives me something to do and enjoy a good time out, instead of being trapped inside my head and…doing what I used to do - running the streets.”
Khiemon Mobley attended the event with his son to support their barbershop Philly Cuts, who provided the free haircuts.
“I said I would support and show love,” said Mobley. “This is something positive the city of Brotherly Love is doing for the kids. Hopefully…[they] will grow up and continue to do the same.”