Xmas spirt returns to soup kitchen after fire

SANTA ANA, Calif. But those fears were dashed with the support of the local community who stepped up to make sure the center would be able to host a yearly gift giveaway for needy families.

Mountains of toys and hundreds of people donated their time as Santa's helpers Saturday.

This annual party for needy families at the Southwest Community Center almost didn't happen because of the fire. On Monday a blaze caused by an electrical fire reduced portion of the 40-year-old soup kitchen to rubble.

"The fire destroyed everything on the kitchen side and on the patio," said the Southwest Community Center director Connie Jones. "It destroyed 100 percent of our food and about 50 percent of our toys."

Corporations responded immediately, donating toys, food and clothing. And the community also stepped forward. In less than two days the center received about 1200 e-mails from people that wanted to help.

"I was pretty hurt to hear what happened. I wasn't sure how it started but it was devastating," said Gaby Urias, a volunteer at the center.

The donations made it possible for center to go on with its Adopt-a-Family event, providing Christmas presents and hosting a party for more than 200 families.

"My heart was broken at about 4 o'clock in the morning Tuesday, but my heart is being mended as I see things happen," said Jones.

Organizers said Saturday's event drew out more volunteers than usual.

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