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Volunteers Show Christmas Spirit Across Tri-State Area

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Across the Tri-State Area, many families are celebrating Christmas with the gift of giving.

In the spirit of the season, they're volunteering.

Leroy Mace's Christmas blessing came when he got a coat.

"It's like the personal touch from the hand of God," Mace told CBS 2's Don Champion.

Mace, a recently laid off teacher, hit hard times and now is homeless.

He was among dozens of people who got the chance to get new coats at the New York Rescue Mission.

"Most folks may take that for granted, but if you're cold for a while, and you're shivering, you'll be grateful for being warm," Mace said.

Volunteers Show Christmas Spirit Across Tri-State Area

The coat drive and distribution has been an effort by New York Cares for 20 years, Champion reported. The effort gives donated coats to homeless people and families in need.

According to Executive Director Gary Bagley, the need is greater this year. Collections are down by about 35 percent.

"Our requests for coats at New York Cares is up 25 percent from a typical year. Two years ago, our requests were for 80,000 coats from about 325 organizations. So the need is unprecedented compared to other years for us," Bagley told 1010 WINS.

"A coat can really be the difference between surviving a cold day like today or not," Bagley told Champion, "and we don't want anyone to be in that position."

Volunteers helped hand out the coats. If you're interested in donating a coat, the drive runs through Feb. 7th, and you can click here to find a drop off location near you.

Across the city, others were helping out during the holiday. In Queens, Mayor Michael Bloomberg stopped by Engine 258 firehouse to give them what he called a "front page thank you."

The firefighters gave Bloomberg a personalized coffee mug that said "#1 Grandpa." Bloomberg became a grandfather yesterday, when his daughter Georgina gave birth to a baby boy.

Firefighters say working on a holiday is a sacrifice, but it's one they're proud to make.

"Of course it is, but somebody has to keep the city safe, so there it is," Firefighter Leo Lopez told Champion.

For people like Mace, the simple sacrifice of others just made his holiday that much more special.

"It takes away the rhetoric of, or the idea of, people not caring," Mace said.

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