CHICAGO (CBS) — Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White was playing Santa Claus on Friday, passing out hams and turkeys to seniors and less-fortunate families.

As CBS 2’s Susan Carlson reports, it has been an annual tradition for White, who at one time was on the other end of the receiving line.

“I was a public aid recipient for about nine years, and I never forgot where I came from,” White said.

He’s been gathering donors for his holiday food drive for 48 years, and this year the need has been greater than ever.

Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) said, “We have more people coming in the office needing jobs, needing homes, needing food.”

White managed to turn his life around, and developed an appetite for helping those less fortunate.

“When you come through this world, and you become successful, you have to give back,” White said.

Louise Newsome, who received one of the turkeys, said “It’s nice to have one” just before the holidays.

Restaurant owner and donor Phil Stefani said, “I am also very fortunate. I’m a son of immigrant parents, I had it rough when I was a kid, and it’s about giving back.”

About 300 hams and turkeys were being distributed at a North Side senior center, but that’s just a fraction of what’s going out all over Chicago.

“There are about 35 senior citizen buildings like this one that will receive these hams and turkeys, not to mention the homes – the single family homes,” White said. “We just want to make sure we touch as many people as we possibly can.”

Lear Whalin said, “Oh, it means everything. I think it’s just a wonderful thing that Jesse White is doing; wonderful, wonderful. I just love him!”

A total of 13,500 families will get hams and turkeys this year thanks to White, many generous donors, and the organization “Emergency Fund.”