For 21 years, Share the Spirit has been providing Christmas gift baskets filled with food, clothing and gifts to families in need on the southern Kenai Peninsula.
Before 1992, it was an organization called HELP – the Homer Emergency Life Program – that took on the responsibility of trying to provide much-needed food, clothing and children’s gifts at Christmas time. It was run by local church leaders until the job just became too big.
Sheri Daugherty has been involved with Share the Spirit since its humble beginnings. She says the annual baskets of food and gifts are financed through the organization's spaghetti feed. Every year, a week or so before the baskets are put together and delivered, the organization holds the spaghetti feed, which has grown into a very popular event in Homer, raising money to make the baskets happen.
Daugherty says the community support that goes into the spaghetti feed has allowed Share the Spirit to grow.
"And every year ... we learn things that do and don't work and then we modify," said Daugherty.
It wasn’t long before one of those modifications became the “Adopt a Family” program, which allows for an anonymous sponsor to take on the responsibility of fulfilling the Christmas list for an entire family.
Homer shoppers may have noticed several paper ornaments decorating holiday trees at several local retailers. The ornaments are made by local Girl Scouts and each one contains the Christmas list of a child in the Homer area.
Daugherty says a late Thanksgiving date this year has effectively shortened the holiday season and as a result, Share the Spirit – and especially the Adopt-a-Family program – has been a little behind the curve.
"Next week is Christmas," she says. "We're going to pack baskets and gifts this Friday. We need (people) to go shopping now to get those gifts so that every child's wish is taken care of."
The baskets will be put together at a huge community event Friday at the Homer High School commons, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Daugherty says that it’s not too long after that that all of the food, clothing and gifts have been delivered, in plenty of time for Christmas morning. She says Share the Spirit expects to put together about 240 Christmas baskets this year, for an estimated total of about $25,000 worth of food, clothing and gifts.