The Omni Hotel in downtown Dallas is getting ready for a very special Christmas Eve. Five hundred homeless men, women and children will be invited to spend a night off the streets, out of homeless shelters and check into one of the most luxurious places in town.
"They come in with the smiles on their faces, from ear to ear," said Ed Netzhammer, Omni GM and Regional Vice President.
2011, just a month after the Omni Dallas opened, Netzhammer partnered with The SoupMobile and invited the homeless to be his guests. He'll never forget the smiles on the faces of 500 men, women and children who are often overlooked. Homeless families were VIPS that Christmas Eve. They dined on restaurant-quality food at a banquet and slept on cotton sheets for a good night’s rest.
"You can't stop doing it once you see it," said Netzhammer.
Now in year five, Netzhammer wants one family to check out of his hotel and into their own home on Christmas morning.
"We are going to adopt a family," said Netzhammer. "We call it A Home for the Holidays. We're gonna find 2500 people who can give $12."
"We have housing, food from Kroger, and you guys with NBC as a partner and, we're sort of saying Texas connects us with our thousand people and we want to connect with another 1,500 more and take a family off the streets," said Netzhammer.
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Charity starts at home. Omni workers are rallying behind the campaign and taking from their paychecks to help.
Workers like Ted Boyd. Boyd is a disabled vet who moved to Dallas four years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina, and got a job as a lobby attendant a year ago.
"I think it's great," said Boyd. "I really do. because I've been in situations in my life where I didn't know where I was going to eat or sleep sometimes."
College student Drake Thomas, a front desk agent, on the job for two months, donated double and didn't think twice. "The way I look at, the Lord's blessed me beyond what I could imagine, so why not do what I'm supposed to do and give to others?"
And for Leslie Dunn, a six-month member of the Omni sales team, donating is a chance "to be part of something bigger than yourself."
"I donated $12 to a family, I need to help support them and help them get back on their feet. That $12 is gonna go to help them have a new home as well as groceries for a year."
Netzhammer's big ambition of A Home for the Holidays came Christmas Eve a year ago. The words at the Omni this time of year: "hope", "peace," and "joy" inspired him as he greeted hundreds of homeless.
He remembers what he told them: "I talked about peaceful nights that they would have at our hotel. and when I talked about hope, I said my hope is that none of you will be back in the same shape next year."
As Netzhammer recalls that night, his eyes get a little teary. Yes, he was moved by his VIPS but also by the sight of his 12-year-old son Ryan who was with him.
"I gotta tell you, 12-year-old kids are on video games a lot these days and for my son to put down his games and have an interest in something that was so important to me was pretty special," said Netzhammer.
Netzhammer says this Christmas Eve, his son and his entire family in New Orleans will join him as he again welcomes 500 homeless to the Omni.
NBC5 is among the sponsors for A Home for the Holidays. A $12 donation will a family in our community a place to sleep, eat and be safe for an entire year.
"We're gonna take one family, give them a hand up, a new start and everyone who has heard has been so generous," smiled Netzhammer.