Christmas is looking brighter for more than 120 local children because of the incredible generosity of our community.
On Saturday, volunteers delivered Share the Spirit gift hampers to 61 families in need. The hampers included toys, treats, hygiene supplies and more, all donated by generous individuals, groups and businesses fromOliver.
Share the Spirit has been running in our community for nearly 20 years. This year was by far the biggest year for the program, with the number of families serviced up 30% over last year. Luckily, sponsors stepped up in the most beautiful ways, both big and small.
Two sisters – just 2 and 4 years old – picked out, carefully wrapped, and proudly donated Pez Dispenser candy machines. Elementary school staff worked together to fill the wish list from a family of six. A local farmer donated a Christmas dinner including her own home-raised, free-range chickens. And
countless others donated cash and gifts or took on full sponsorship of a family in need.
Once again, staff and inmates at the Okanagan Correctional Centre (OCC) stepped up in a big way. Inmates and staff sponsored a total of four families. Inmates committed their own money to buy hampers for not one but two families in need.
“It’s a program our clients really support,” says a representative from the OCC. “Many say how much of a difference it would have made for them if, when they were children, someone had shown that kind of generosity to their family. Inmates often have just a few dollars in their bank accounts, but they donate it all – every penny – to buy the gifts for their sponsored family. We’ve done Share the Spirit for a few years. Now our clients are starting to ask about it early in the fall because they’re so committed.”
The hampers make a big impact at what can otherwise be a very challenging time of year for families in need.
“Wow is all I can say. Wow. Thank you!” said one local mama after receiving her family’s gift hamper.
“This is amazing,” said another hamper recipient, a single mom of two. “You didn’t just bring gifts: you brought excitement for my kids and hope for me in a year that’s been awful. Please pass on – I don’t know what: thanks isn’t big enough. Please just tell who ever sponsored us how much we appreciate them.”
Over three days, 9-year-old Gavin racked up over 25 hours of volunteering at the Community Hall: receiving gifts from sponsors, organizing them for distribution, and then helping load up the delivery driver’s vehicles. ‘Muscles’, as the other volunteers started calling him, says, “I’m tired, but we made Christmas happen for more than 100 kids. That’s pretty awesome.”
HUGE thanks to the many people who made Share the Spirit 2020 possible: the volunteers who received, organized and wrapped presents tirelessly, the Oliver Fire Department team who delivered gifts incredibly efficiently, Oliver Missions Society who connected so many dots. Thanks also to Oliver Parks and Rec for donating space and Oliver Kiwanis Club for partnering.
Most of all, thank you to the Share the Spirit sponsors. There will be big smiles in a lot of local homes on Christmas morning because of you.
Share the Spirit Coordinator
Photo: Left to right: Tireless volunteers Wilma Bull, Karen Somerville and Gavin Baerg.
Far right: Rob Graham, one of five ultra-efficient ‘delivery drivers’ from the Oliver Fire Department