As people begin making their Thanksgiving plans and maybe even get an early start on gift shopping, Homer also opens its wallets — and hearts — to give to those more in need. Last Friday, the Homer Community Food Pantry held its annual Empty Bowls fundraiser. Local restaurants donated soup and potters donated bowls, raising enough to buy several months of canned goods, food pantry director Diana Jeska said.
Two big efforts make sure everyone has a good Thanksgiving meal and a merry Christmas: the Thanksgiving Basket program and Share the Spirit. The Kachemak Bay Lions Club Thanksgiving Basket program provides boxes of food, including turkeys, to deserving families.
Applications can be picked up at First National Bank, the Homer Community Food Pantry and the Anchor Point Food Pantry; they’re due by Nov. 15.
Organizer Fran Van Sandt said the big need is for cash donations to buy food, about $7,000-$9,000. Last year the program served about 225 families and 600 people. (See box, right, for where to donate.)
“We’re planning for more, but it all depends on the donations,” Van Sandt said.
Volunteers are needed to set up and pack Thanksgiving baskets. The “store” — different kinds of food set up on tables — gets organized at 6 p.m. Nov. 18 at Homer United Methodist Church. Volunteers also are needed to pick up food at local grocery stores. The big push starts at 8:30 a.m. Nov. 19 for packing day, when baskets get packed.
Share the Spirit continues the giving. Shari Daugherty is the longtime organizer, but now is the co-chairperson with Kelly Glidden and Jonathan Adams. Share the Spirit provides gift and food baskets for deserving families.
Its big fundraiser will be the Share the Spirit spaghetti feed 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Dec. 13 at the Homer Elks Lodge. (See box, right.)Proceeds mainly support the Christmas meal basket program.
Share the Spirit gets referrals for applicants through social service agencies, Daugherty said.
“If it’s an agency where you’re already receiving some help, they already know what your situation is,” she said.
People also can apply through the Homer and Anchor Point food pantries, too, or by calling the Share the Spirit information line. People should apply as soon as possible, especially if they have children.
“We are not magic. We have to have some time to work it out,” Daugherty said.
After Thanksgiving, gift trees go up at stores around town. Girl Scouts decorate the trees and the gift tags that go on the trees. People can select tags that have a child or adult’s age, sex and desired gift. Volunteers then go shopping, wrap the gift and return it with the tag under a gift tree.
Share the Spirit serves families on the lower Kenai Peninsula, including Port Graham and Nanwalek. Last year about 270 families were served, including 70 across Kachemak Bay. Homer Air flies boxes across the bay. The need increases each year, but generally follows the increase in population, Daugherty said. Families served include single parents with children as well as seniors and military veterans.
Families, businesses, groups and individuals also can help by adopting a family. Applications will be available at Wells Fargo. Adopting a family means doing everything — shopping for gifts and donating food or money for the meal.
“It’s a wonderful program. People who have done it will tell you there’s nothing like adopting a family,” Daugherty said. “You have to be a little bit in control.”
One year a business adopted three families. When they showed up with gifts and food, they delivered them in a truck.
Daugherty said, “How is a family going to take that in a Subaru?” Share the Spirit is anonymous, so she had to ask the family if the volunteers could follow them home.
“That whole Christmas spirit gets in your socks and makes our feet happy,” Daugherty said. “Before you know it, you have these huge boxes of stuff.”
The food and gift baskets come together starting at 8:30 a.m. Dec. 22 at the Homer High School commons. That’s when volunteers are needed to help pack baskets, wrap last-minute gifts and organize boxes for families.
With Christmas the following Sunday, that will be a tight deadline, Daugherty said. Key to helping out are what she calls the elves, high school seniors doing their community service as part of graduation requirements.
Glidden was the original elf, Daugherty said. She started as a sixth grader when she helped wrap presents. The next year she said she would organize the gift wrapping because people didn’t know what they were doing, Daugherty said.
“She trained legions of people on how to properly mass-wrap gifts,” Daugherty said.
When Glidden graduated, that’s when Share the Spirit came up with the idea of getting high school seniors to help out. Now elves who have graduated high school return at the holidays from college, the military or travels and come back on the packing day.
Adams is another elf who kept coming back. With Glidden and Adams now involved, Daugherty is training them to take over Share the Spirit.
That’s something Van Sandt would like to do, too — have someone else take over the Thanksgiving Basket program..
“I’m trying to get other people involved. Whenever the Lord’s ready for me, I need to have this taken care of,” she said.
But Van Sandt will keep organizing the Thanksgiving Basket program as long as she’s able.
“I don’t need a rest from this. This is my passion. I love doing this for people,” Van Sandt said. “Homer is the most generous place on earth.”
Michael Armstrong can be reached at email@example.com.
Volunteers needed to prepare baskets.
Set up day: 6 p.m. Nov. 18, Homer United Methodist Church
Packing day, 8:30 a.m. Nov. 19 until done
Send cash donations to:
Kachemak Bay Lions
P.O. Box 1824
Homer, AK 99603
Share the Spirit
Apply Nov. 21-Dec. 13 through Homer Community Food Pantry and other social service agencies
11 a.m.-7 p.m.
Homer Elks Lodge
For deliveries, call 235-7466
Volunteers needed for various tasks.
Appear around town after Thanksgiving, Nov. 24. Take a tag, shop, wrap the gift and return with the tag to a gift tree.
BASKET DAY AND GIFT WRAPPING
8:30 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 22, Homer High School Commons
ADOPT A FAMILY
Individuals, families, businesses and groups can adopt a family and provide gifts and a holiday food basket. Forms are available at Wells Fargo.
To donate or for more information:
Share the Spirit
P.O. Box 3218
Homer, AK 99603