With the lack of snow, it may not look alot like Christmas on the Kenai Peninsula.
What once was empty office space next to Don Jose's Restaurant on Willow Street in Kenai, however, has been transformed into what could easily pass for Santa's workshop. In one corner, new toys are neatly stacked on several tables waiting to be delivered to expectant children. Another table holds clothes. Across the room, piles of canned goods and other nonperishable food items have been sorted and are waiting to be boxed -- bags of flour, peas, beans, cranberry sauce, soups, yams, cookies and crackers, tomatoes and tomato sauce, almost anything one could think of to make a special meal and then some.
A wall of boxes divides the room. They're distinguished by color coding, which will tell Santa's elves, who just happen to be area volunteers, the size of the family to which each of these boxes of Christmas cheer will be delivered.
It's all part of the Sharing the Spirit campaign, a coordinated effort among several helping agencies to ensure that peninsula families who might not otherwise have gifts or a holiday meal receive them. The campaign, now in its fourth year, has grown each year. By the time the holiday season is over, organizers expect to have delivered at least 400 boxes of gifts and goodies to approximately 1,000 people.
And you can help. In fact, contributing to this community-wide effort may be just what you need if you're having trouble getting into the spirit of the season.
Your time is needed. Toys are needed. Gifts for teen-agers, particularly teen boys, are needed. You can still give food -- all the food items you like to include in your holiday meal would be appropriate. Your financial gift also would be greatly appreciated.
If you want to give of your time, volunteers are needed for wrapping and packing today and Saturday. Today, the work gets under way about 10 a.m. at the Willow Street space; things will get started at about 8 a.m. on Saturday. If you can, you might want to bring some wrapping paper, ribbons, gift tags, boxes and garbage bags with you -- or drop some by for other volunteers to use. Families might want to consider volunteering as a way to create their own holiday tradition.
Your gift of time also is needed next week to help deliver boxes; those who can lift heavy boxes would be especially useful.
Those who can give their time are asked to call either The Salvation Army at 283-3879 or Emily Aley at the Women's Resource and Crisis Center at 283-9479 for more specific times of when they are needed.
If you'd like to buy toys or other gifts, you can get the best idea of what's needed by stopping by one of the angel trees in the area. Angel trees are located at Carrs, Credit Union 1, Fred Meyer, Peninsula Center Mall and Big Kmart. Items purchased for the angel trees can be left at the customer service center at the businesses where the trees are located. Toys and gifts should be new and unwrapped and also can be delivered to The Salvation Army thrift stores in Kenai and Soldotna or at the Willow Street clearinghouse. Gift certificates also can be put to great use.
Food also can be delivered to The Salvation Army or the Willow Street building, but, remember, time is getting short. The sooner you can help, the better.
Your financial gift to the Sharing the Spirit campaign should be made out to Sharing the Spirit and can be delivered to any one of the coordinating agencies:
Bridges Community Resource Network, 145 Kasilof St., Soldotna, 260-3800;
Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, 33955 Community College Road, Soldotna, 262-3111;
The Salvation Army, 201 North Forest Drive, Kenai, 283-3879;
Kenai Peninsula United Way, 11355 Kenai Spur Highway, Suite 101, Kenai, 283-9500;
Women's Resource and Crisis Center, 325 S. Spruce, Kenai, 283-9479.
Although the official deadline has passed, if your family is in need of a helping hand this holiday season, you can still apply at The Salvation Army on Forest Drive.
Our hats are off to all of those who are making Sharing the Spirit possible and in doing so are reminding the entire community what the Christmas season is all about.
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