The thousands of costumed revelers in this year's annual Santa Monica Pub Crawl raised a "whopping" $20,000 for the Westside Food Bank as it loses funding and tries to keep pace with growing demand.
The money raised by pub crawlers will go toward the purchase of 100,000 pounds of food, according to the food bank's development director Genevieve Riutort.
"That's a big impact," she said.
It's estimated 5,000 people turned out for the fourth annual event Saturday night. Dressed like packages, rabbis, Jesus, Santa Claus, elves and cousin Eddie from Christmas Vacation, they crowded into and spilled out of the bars in downtown and on Main Street and Wilshire Boulevard.
"I've come to the conclusion that the pub crawl is the happiest day of the year—everyone is smiling and giving," said organizer Kim Koury. "They know it's for a good cause."
With fewer private donations trickling in and funding from the federal government drying up, the Westside Food Bank has cut back its food purchases for the first time in a decade by 25 percent.
"That results in a 10 to 15 percent reduction in distribution," said Riutort.
This year, more than 105,000 local people—half of whom are children—are relying on Westside Food Bank, according to Riutort.
"This holiday season the need is especially high," she said.
In the first two years, pub crawl participants were asked to donate cans. Now, they pay a $10 admission. "We were collecting so many cans, 4,000 or 5,000 pounds of cans... we couldn't transport it all, and the first two years it rained, so it was all soggy," Koury said.
It turned out to be a better deal for the Westside Food Bank, she said. "Every one dollar [we donate], they can turn into four meals because they buy in bulk."
For more information about the Westside Food Bank, click over to its website.