Phillies bring holiday cheer to homeless

Phillies bring holiday cheer to homeless

PHILADELPHIA -- The crowd cheered Friday afternoon when the Phanatic stormed into the Bethesda Project's Our Brothers' Place.

The approximately 200 homeless people at Bethesda look forward to his visit every year. It is the day the Phillies prepare and serve a holiday dinner at one of the largest shelters in Philadelphia as part of their "Season of Giving."

Everybody got a meal, a Phillies cap and a few good memories.

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"This event is incredibly important to Bethesda Project," Bethesda Project chief operating officer Tina Pagotto said. "They bring cheer and holiday wishes at a time when so many of our homeless shelter guests are feeling the lowest. It goes so far in making a difference for their spirit. The Phanatic running around, giving hope and keeping people smiling and laughing. It, honestly, is probably the best day for Our Brothers' Place. Just having the support of a powerhouse like the Phillies is immeasurable. We're very grateful."

Pagotto said the anticipation from the men is very real, too.

"They talk about it leading up to the event, and they talk about it after the event," she said. "The Phillies always bring a nice giveaway, so they'll continue to wear those. They'll share pictures of themselves with the Phanatic. The excitement about the Phillies coming lasts far beyond the day of the event."

Phillies president Andy MacPhail, general manager Matt Klentak, broadcasters Larry Andersen, Scott Franzke, Ben Davis and Gregg Murphy and others served food to those in attendance. Phillies chairman David Montgomery addressed the crowd prior to lunch.

It was Klentak's first time at the event.

"I had heard so much prior to my arrival about the community involvement of the Phillies," Klentak said. "Now I've seen it firsthand for the last two months. A day like this is just tremendous. We have such a supportive community and such a supportive fan base that a day like this, especially around holidays, really means a lot. To meet these folks is really special.

"Just to share a smile and a 'Merry Christmas' to people was really nice."

Bethesda Project's Our Brothers' Place is an emergency shelter for 149 homeless men. It provides three meals a day and supportive services to more men, including referrals to housing and treatment programs.

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.