CHICAGO (CBS) — As frigid cold grips the Chicago area, some gathered in the Old Town neighborhood early Wednesday to help the city’s needy for the holidays.

Many people who spend the day outside in the brutal cold do so to earn a paycheck, but dozens of volunteers were braving the icy temperatures before dawn to help feed the needy.

Single-digit temperatures were not going to stop an annual food giveaway started more than 50 years ago by Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White.

Wednesday morning, volunteers gathered in Old Town to unload a truck packed with 15,000 boxes of meat for White’s 52nd annual ham and turkey giveaway. The meat was purchased with $100,000 donated by the community.

“We have gloves, and some hand warmers, and some foot warmers,” White said. “We’re committed to making sure we unload these trucks and get the merchandise out to the people who need them.”

Volunteers later load up their cars with the hams and turkeys to deliver them to senior citizens and needy families.

“Once you start moving, it’s warm. I’m sweating already,” Mark Caltagerone said.

Fellow volunteer Drew Urban was quite upbeat amid the frigid temperatures.

“I run really hot. I’ve got layers on, so I feel fine. As long as you keep th blood flowing, and everything like that, you’re pretty good,”

Volunteers said the camaraderie makes the event fun. Plus, there’s a worthy end goal in sight.

Bob Hamilton, 79, was among the seniors who received a ham at a senior home on the Near North Side.

“Most of the people that live in this building are people who are living below poverty line, and so this is a nice way to be able to celebrate the gifts that Jesse has organized,” Hamilton said.

His neighbor, 73-year-old Judy Mosely, sure was thankful for her ham.

“It’ll make several meals for me,” she said.

White said Roundy’s — the parent company of Mariano’s grocery stores — gave him a deep discount on the food to make his annual event possible.