Durham, N.C. — Homeless families, retired executives and schoolchildren alike are finding blessings in sharing the Christmas spirit at a shelter run by the Durham Rescue Mission.
Seventy-two people, including 27 children, are spending Christmas weekend at the Good Samaritan Shelter.
Thanks to generous donors, those children, including 2-year-old Zion McCullough, still got a Christmas party Saturday and gifts to open.
"We wouldn't have a Christmas if it wasn't for the Durham Rescue Mission. I wouldn't be able to provide for my daughter this year," said Zion's mother, Melissa McCullough.
McCullough never imagined she'd be celebrating the holidays in a homeless shelter but had nowhere else to turn after her hours at work were cut.
"I was having some financial hardships. I wasn't able to pay my rent and keep everything afloat and take care of my kids like I needed to," she said.
Shelter staff said they're seeing more people like McCullough who are homeless because of economic hardships, rather than choices they've made.
The hard times makes the generosity of donors even more important.
Retired Microsoft executive C.T. Tomlin came to the shelter's party bearing his annual present – $5,000 worth of gift cards.
"Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your special day today," he told the shelter residents.
"To those whom much is given, much is required. It's a responsibility that God places on my heart to do more to help those who are least fortunate," Tomlin said.
Megan Brinkman, 10, brought people to tears when she arrived with a little red bag. It was stuffed with $2,500 in donations she had raised for the shelter.
"It feels really good, like a nice, warm feeling inside. It's just so amazing," Megan said.
The help that the Durham Rescue Mission gives the homeless goes beyond the holidays.
Staff say one of the biggest obstacles residents face is a lack of education. With the rescue mission's support, McCollough will start classes at Durham Technical Community College in January.
"I know that everyone is struggling financially, so it's really a blessing that people think about us," she said.