LOS ANGELES – While carmakers have their hands out to Congress, a kindly soul showed up in a car to deliver his own bailout to those on Skid Row.
The anonymous donor continued a holiday tradition by handing out $10 bills to people at The Midnight Mission. The shelter estimated that $13,000 was distributed this year.
"It's the highlight of my year," the donor said.
Hundreds lined up around the building Tuesday, and some said they waited as long as eight hours for the benefactor — nicknamed the Eldorado Elf.
The tradition of handing out money at the mission around Christmas dates to the early 1980s when car dealer Ronald Moran began showing up in a Cadillac to pass out thousands of dollars.
When the man dubbed the Cadillac Santa died in 1992, his friend, who was the attorney for Moran's dealership, took over the handout. He showed up in a Cadillac Eldorado and thus was born the Eldorado Elf.
The elf — a 67-year-old semiretired lawyer who would only give his name as Bill — wore a bright red shirt and a smile as he and several friends distributed the money Tuesday. He said the money was needed more than ever because of the poor economy.
The donor said the money comes from himself and his friends and that he did not regret spending it even though the economy has hurt his own finances.
"Just because I've taken a hit, is that any reason that the homeless should suffer?" he said. "I've got so much more than they've got."
"If you're homeless and you have $10, it's the world," he said.
Some of those receiving the money beamed as they clutched the new bills. A few sniffed or kissed it, and one man had his photograph taken with it. A family of seven got $10 for each member, including an infant in a stroller.
"This money means a lot to me. I don't have to panhandle," said Nanette Boone, 43, a recovering drug user and alcoholic who lived on the streets for five years. Boone said she planned to use the money for bus fare to take her to rehabilitation classes.
"I'm gonna go get something to eat," said Shivon Jones, 22, who has been living at downtown shelters for more than a year.