ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Christmas celebrations are in full swing across the Stateline and the Rockford Rescue Mission hosted its annual Christmas dinner a little early this year.

“You just learn so much in friendship, not being alone and just having love instead of hate,” said David Connelly, a resident of the Mission. “I love it and I owe a lot to the Mission.”

Connelly, who says he is typically in Florida at this time of the year, participated in the Mission’s 57th Christmas banquet on Thursday.

“Doing more for others than we do for ourselves, not only is it humbling, but it does feed my heart. I love it, but I do like being served today, because we are usually serving throughout the year,” he said.

Mission representative Abby Finley says these events are a great way to let those in the community know someone is there for them.

“The reality is, homelessness and crisis and addiction and domestic violence does not end during the holidays. It’s a very real thing that continues on throughout the year, which is why events like this are important,” she said.

The Rockford Rescue Mission is also giving out gifts and cold weather clothing to the city’s homeless population.

“It’s an opportunity for us to celebrate, with our guests and residents… but it’s also a way to reach out to our community and celebrate Christmas with them as well,” she said.

Connelly said sitting down to a holiday meal with the people, who he says are like family now, is an amazing feeling.

“I’m so happy to be here,” he said. “I came here, I didn’t have a lot of friends here and stuff like that, and now I actually – this is a family. I’m so happy I’m here.”

The Rockford Rescue Mission is always in need of donations.