CHICAGO (CBS) — Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White was spreading some good cheer to thousands of senior citizens and other needy people around the city on Friday.

It was the 50th year White has been handing out turkeys and ham to the needy for Christmas.

White said he remembers his family being on welfare when he was a child. Since that time, he has wanted to “give back.”

“My parents made a great sacrifice to make sure that we had something wonderful at Christmas, and through the help of the state and others, we were able to have a good meal,” he said. “I was a public aid recipient for about nine years as a kid, and this time of year was always tough sledding, so I just committed myself to doing something good for someone at Thanksgiving, and especially Christmas.”

Susan Carter was happy to receive a turkey.

“It helps a lot – a great deal – and my family and I will enjoy it,” she said.

Anthony Savalio said he takes the turkey to his aunt “who doesn’t have much.” They cook it up, and the family has turkey for Christmas.

White said, when you help someone who needs it, and improve their quality of life, society wins.

White expected 15,000 hams and tukeys – all bought using private funds – to be given out to people who could use the help. Mariano’s and Meijer’s grocery store chains sold the turkeys to him at a discounted price, allowing more people to be fed.