Hundreds gather for Father Woody money giveaway
Christmas gifts came early for hundreds of needy as $40,000—$20 per person—was handed out in the annual Father Woody money giveaway at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception the morning of Dec. 17.
Lining up outside since the evening before, capacity crowds filled the 800-seat church a couple of times for a short liturgy that included singing carols, hearing a Scripture reading and receiving a warm handshake before departing with money for adults and McDonald’s gift certificates for children.
Guests were escorted to their seats by volunteers from the Knights of Columbus, Regis University and the Denver Sheriff’s Department.
One man near the front of the line who gave his name as “Streeter” said he’d been in line all night.
“I heard about this and I wanted to be sure to get some money,” he said.
Word of the distribution was made to homeless shelters the day before.
The late Msgr. C.B. Woodrich, known to all as “Father Woody,” with help from an anonymous donor began a tradition of passing out cash to the homeless during the holidays. Father Woody was of the opinion that the event provided the needy with a little dignity to have a few dollars with which to buy food or a Christmas present.
Originally held at Holy Ghost Church, where Father Woody served as pastor, the event was moved to the cathedral a few years ago. This year the gifts, which were donated by an anonymous donor, were passed out by Msgr. Thomas Fryar, pastor at the cathedral, assisted by retired Father Patrick Kennedy, Regis University president Father Michael Sheeran, S.J., who were both friends of Father Woody. Also helping distribute money were the cathedral’s parochial vicar Father Matthew Hartley and Deacon Robert Finan.
Victoria McCabe, who leads the Father Woody Service Program at Regis University, watched over the event with a practiced eye.
“This is what it’s all about; this is what Father Woody wanted,” she said. “Wishing all a merry Christmas and putting a gift in their hand.”\
Snow was falling as guests exited the church and returned to the street. As they left, volunteers from Regis University handed out gifts of cozy hats and socks, while others gave out candy.
One woman, who identified herself as “Dianna,” said has attended event for three years. She said she had no immediate plans for the $20 in her pocket.
“I want to think about it,” she said, wrapping a scarf around her ears. “Right now, I’ll get a cup of coffee and plan out the day.”