A list of Christmas shoes

About 300 homeless or down-on-their-luck individuals wrote Christmas lists at Lighthouse Church & Christmas Ministries in Costa Mesa this November.

Their ream of requests went to Stanbridge College in Irvine.

The college's president, Yasith Weerasuriya, read them aloud Thursday.

"A pair of shoes would do me well. Encouragement and a blanket. A job and lots of work. A down jacket. Bus passes. Can I get possibly black shoes? Dental work. Work and love. I am working and could use a bus pass," Weerasuriya said, as he flipped through hundreds more.

Weerasuriya and his students have teamed up with the Stephanie Chang, who for years has hosted dinners for the homeless at Lighthouse.

They saw a common theme in the requests, so student donations bought 300 pairs of shoes with bundles of socks and more than 300 sleeping bags to give out the Saturday before Christmas.

Chang hosts the dinner twice a month at Lighthouse, and once a month she hosts a farmers market where low-income families can freely pick produce and fresh food they otherwise wouldn't have access to.

"Our students are really the ones driving all of this," Weerasuriya said.

In fact, Stanbridge's students have become a de-facto staff for the undertaking. They pick up produce, prepare food and serve attendees.

It's part of the curriculum at the nursing school.

Weerasuriya decided to incorporate community involvement through a program called Reach. Each quarter students donate to, and volunteer with, a different charity, but Chang's meals at Lighthouse have become a constant recipient.

This Christmas, signs trumpet their efforts all over the office-park campus, and one of the Reach coordinators, Victoria Sauer, said donations from students have overflowed in the holiday season.

The school also funded a visit from Santa at this Saturday's farmer's market.

"This specific Santa has a giant sleigh," Weerasuriya said, and all the kids who are normally read stories while their parents shop were invited along for a ride.


Twitter: @jeremiahdobruck

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