Yelitza Castro, an undocumented immigrant who works as a housekeeper in Charlotte, N.C., cooks dinners for homeless men and women every other Saturday night. It's a tradition that started after she and her children spotted a man standing in the rain on a cold day with a sign asking for help.
Yelitza gave the man $5, she recalls, but her children wanted to take him out to dinner. She turned around to go back, but he was already gone.
"And we were thinking we have to do something," she says.
Since Yelitza started her dinners, Willie Davis has partaken in many of the meals. "You don't make us feel homeless," he tells Yelitza on a visit to StoryCorps in Pineville, N.C. "You know us by names and faces. And we know you all care."
Before he met Yelitza, Willie says, "I pretty much almost gave up. But that home-cooked meal, it just brought my self-esteem back up. And now I've got my own place."
Audio produced for Morning Edition by Anita Rao.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
It's Friday, when we hear from StoryCorps, and today we hear from Yelitza Castro, an undocumented immigrant who works as a housekeeper in Charlotte, North Carolina. Every other Saturday night she cooks dinners for homeless men and women. Willie Davis has been the recipient of many of those meals and at StoryCorps Yelitza told Willie how it all began.
YELITZA CASTRO: My kids and me, we was driving and it was raining and really cold. And we saw a guy with a sign asking for some help and I just give him $5, and my daughter ask me, mommy, why we don't take him to dinner. I say, okay, let's make a U-turn. But he was not there. And we were thinking we have to do something.
Willie, you remember the first dinner together?
WILLIE DAVIS: Yes, I do.
CASTRO: It was Christmas 2010.
DAVIS: The church van came, picked some of us guys up from the men's shelter and I'm like, why is this lady coming to the roughest place in Charlotte to do this for us? Something must be fishy about this. But I said I'm gonna go, and when I got out of the van, I smelled the cooking and then I saw you.
I saw a smile on your face and it made everybody feel welcome and comfortable. And when you cooked, it was like what moms used to cook. You know, I haven't had that kind of feeling in a long time and I really needed that.
CASTRO: That night, I finish all the stuff in the kitchen and when I got to the buffet tables, you guys, all together, started singing the "Feliz Navidad" song. And I said, oh my gosh, he starts singing in Spanish and I start crying.
DAVIS: Everybody just gave you a standing ovation, pretty much. It just - you don't make us feel homeless. You know us by names and faces. And we know you all care. Before I met you, Yelitza, I pretty much almost gave up. But that home-cooked meal, it just brought my self-esteem back up. And now I've got my own place and...
CASTRO: It's really amazing. And that gives me motivation because I'm here in the United States by myself with my kids and I know that it's hard. That Christmas dinner, it's not just a meal. It's try to make you guys feel like we are family.
DAVIS: Every other Saturday feels like Christmas to me. That's why I keep coming. I'm always gonna keep coming.
INSKEEP: That's Willie Davis with his friend Yelitza Castro. They'll be celebrating Christmas together next week. All StoryCorps interviews are archived at the Library of Congress and you can read more stories like this one in the new StoryCorps book, "Ties That Bind." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.