Looking to share some holiday spirit? Here’s how

As the holiday season approaches, one organization is continuing its 29-year mission to provide for those in need this Christmas by sharing the spirit.

Share the Spirit is a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the Homer community by donating food, essential needs and Christmas presents to families who otherwise wouldn’t have gifts and food to celebrate. One of its biggest fundraisers, the Spaghetti Feed, is back this year with take-out or delivery service only on Dec. 14.

Share the Spirit began in 1992 after a need in the community was presented during the holidays. The first year Share the Spirit was organized, 57 families in need were provided baskets of food and treats. Last year, 363 families were impacted by the generosity of Share the Spirit and participating community members, founding member Shari Daugherty said.

“It’s pretty standard to be between 8-10% higher (participation) each year,” Daugherty said. “We started off with 57 the first year we did it. We made 57 baskets, and boy, were we proud of ourselves!”

While Share the Spirit has received endless support from the city throughout their service, Daugherty says she knows some people are skeptical about the growing number of families in need in the community. Their judgment, however, won’t stop Share the Spirit from providing a wonderful Christmas for those who apply as they are now seeing multiple generations of families giving back after receiving care themselves.

“I know that there are people that think that we’re just giving away stuff to folks that don’t want to go get the stuff themselves. But I can tell you that numerous times over the years, we’ve helped a family, whether it was just one or a couple years, got them on their feet, and those people are some of our strongest supporters now,” Daugherty said. “They volunteer every year, their kids go through the Elf Program at the high school, they show up and wrap gifts or transport food at 6 a.m. in 9 degrees. … They take their kids every year to the ornament trees so they can give gifts to children.”

“We’re at 29 years, so this is second generation now. There are people in this town that got their Christmas from us because of whatever was going on in their household, and they are now, we hope, contributing members of society,” she continued. “Now, they take their kids to buy gifts for other kids because somebody did that for them when they were a kid. It’s a community cycle.”

It’s the generosity and willingness of the community that Daugherty says makes their whole operation successful.

“If it weren’t for everyone in our group, this wouldn’t be possible,” Daugherty said. “First of all, it never would have happened and it definitely wouldn’t be sustainable. It just happened to be in the right town at the right time. … The rest is history.”

While the years have fortified its mission, the pandemic presented a new challenge for the nonprofit last year.

Determining how to gather safely to serve the community was an obstacle Daugherty said they were able to overcom. The group was able to modify their plans to include a drive-thru Christmas Basket pick-up at Christian Community Church, and thankfully with grant monies, the organization was able to serve even more people than ever before.

“Last year was particularly challenging,” Daugherty said. “We had modified it along the way, and usually modifying means adding something. Once can I remember that we took something away, and then all of the sudden, we had to take everything away last year and make an entirely new program.”

This year, Share the Spirit is back to supporting families on a larger scale than last year allowed. Instead of at the CCC, this year the Christmas Basket drive-thru will be held at Homer High School.

How can Homer share the spirit this holiday season?

Several annual holiday events, even ones that were missing last year, are returning this December, including the spaghetti feed, the Christmas Baskets and gift tree programs, and Adopt a Family.

This year’s Share the Spirit Spaghetti Feed is scheduled for Dec. 14 and will be a to-go only event. For $15 per person or $50 for a family of four, participants will be able to drive through the Elk’s Lodge parking lot to pick up their spaghetti plate or have it delivered to them.

“(The Spaghetti Feed) isn’t quite back to normal,” Daugherty said. “It’ll be a luncheon from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. … Unfortunately, we won’t have all of the wonderful entertainment we normally have or the prizes and raffles, but we really need people to show up for the Spaghetti Feed.”

The planning committee is looking for local businesses to donate salads and bread for the event.

For more information about the Spaghetti Feed, to donate, volunteer or reserve a delivery order, call 907-235-7466.

The Share the Spirit Adopt a Family program has returned this year and interested families, groups or businesses can reach out to Share the Spirit at 907-235-7466 to find a family to shower with gifts this Christmas. Applications for families in need to sign up for the program can also be obtained by calling the Share the Spirit phone number. Gifts for the families will be delivered on Dec. 22.

The group adopting a family can specify what type of family they are paired with, such as a family with small children or grandparents who are the guardians of their grandchildren, etc. Through the family applications, Share the Spirit will match each family with a group to provide a Christmas for.

“We give them anonymously all of the family’s information, sizes and ages of the children, and then they go out and do the whole thing,” Daugherty explained.

To adopt a family, call 907-235-7466. Applications are now available for families to submit to through Dec. 13.

Each year, Share the Spirit purchases food supplies for families currently receiving assistance with the funds raised from the Spaghetti Feed and donations throughout the year for the Christmas Basket program. Beginning Monday, Nov. 22, applications to receive a Christmas Basket are available at local human services agencies, such as churches and community centers, through the application deadline on Dec. 13. Applications are also available on Mondays at the Homer Community Food Pantry through the deadline. Applications can be dropped off at Wells Fargo in the front foyer or the drive-thru.

“We use the donations that come in from the community, as well as the money that’s earned from the spaghetti feed, and with that we buy all of the food that we’re going to put in the baskets,” Daugherty said.

The Christmas Baskets will be passed out at Homer High School on Dec. 21.

In addition to the Christmas Baskets, presents purchased through the gift tree program will be distributed to the families. Gift trees, featuring ornaments with Christmas wishes and needs, will be placed in numerous stores around town, such as Kachemak Gear Shed, Ulmers and Homer Jeans, so people can select an ornament and purchase what is on the tag. The presents purchased through the gift trees will be placed with the corresponding Christmas Basket and delivered to the family on Dec. 21.

“We try to sort the ornaments so that if you choose to pick one of the ornaments off the tree, which most of the trees will be up by next week. If you choose an ornament off a tree, there is a 99% chance that that item or something similar can be purchased in that store. That’s why we do it that way,” Daugherty said. “Doesn’t mean you have to buy it there.”

Presents should be returned to the gift tree with the ornament attached. Each ornament has a code on it designating which child the gift belongs to. Without the code, Daugherty said it’s extremely difficult to determine who asked for it, meaning a child could go without a Christmas present.

Whether you participate in one or all of the upcoming events, Daugherty encourages everyone to share the spirit this holiday season and help a neighbor in need.

For more information about all of the events, contact Share the Spirit at 907-235-7466.

Reach Sarah Knapp at sarah.knapp@homernews.com.