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Christmas Spirit

11/26/2013 at 11:25am

Spirit of ChristmasChristmas Spirit

Caption: Sharon & Jim Jamieson and Lisa and Oscar Bush are ready for the Spirit of the Holidays fundraiser next Tuesday, December 3 from 5-10pm at the American Legion Hall at 899 Buttonwood Dr.

Fifteen years ago, a couple decided that they didn’t need to give each other another frivolous gift. They didn’t really need anything. Many couples reach this point, as they wander store aisles puzzling over what to give their spouse. Sharon and Jim Jamieson came up with a unique solution. They didn’t write a check to some far-off charity, nor did they abandon the idea of Christmas giving all together. They decided that instead of spending on each other, they would select a needy family and buy them gifts.

After a few years of helping one family, they enjoyed the experience so much, they expanded to two families, then 5, then 6. And then they decided to get serious and host a fundraiser so they could help even more children and families.

Last year, they brought the Spirit of Christmas to 250 children and 125 families, all of them right here in our backyard.

The Spirit of Christmas Foundation will host its Annual Dinner fundraiser on Tuesday, December 3rd from 5-10pm at the American Legion Post 274 at 899 Buttonwood Dr. The event is open to everyone.

The goal of the Spirit o Christmas Foundation is to raise money to provide a Christmas for needy children and families in our area. According to founder Jim Jamieson, they find children through many different channels, including schools, churches, St. Vincent DePaul, Salvation Army, American Legion and by word of mouth. He gives credit to his wife Sharon, who checks out all submitted names to confirm that they are eligible for the program.

"We really only take the very tough cases,” Jamieson said. "And we only do a family once. We’re very serious about finding the right families.”

Early on in this grand holiday experiment, they would give gift cards, but found that cards were not personal enough. The couple wanted to be sure that the children were the focus of the gift.

They have fine-tuned both the fundraising and the gifting.

The fundraiser will include donated items that will be auctioned off, including gift certificates for a restaurant tree, golf packages and resort stays. Dinner is available for $7/person, but the event is free to attend.

"We’ll raise $25,000 in three hours,” he said proudly. He is quick to credit the American Legion, Sons of the Legion and several large donors who prefer to remain anonymous as well as all the businesses who donate prizes and the good folks who support this effort each year.

He reminds us that the Sprit of Christmas Foundation, Inc. is a 501c3 organization, so they are able to extend their buying power with tax-free purchases for their beneficiary children and families. He also is proud of the fact that the organization’s books are audited annually, giving donors peace of mind that they are contributing to a good cause with solid financial accounting of all donations.

But it’s really all about the kids. And needy kids are not difficult to find, Jamieson knows. He tells us about one family with children struggling with medical problems. Any money coming in goes to medical costs. "There’s no money for Thanksgiving. There’s no money for Christmas. You take this family and give them a whomping Christmas and they really appreciate it.”

The Spirit of Christmas is different from many other holiday charities in that they only assist a family once. Yet they have no difficulty coming up with 125 desperately needy new families every year, families that have no hope of a traditional happy Christmas that most of America has come to expect: food on the table, new clothes and gifts under a Christmas tree.

Jamieson has tried to pass this torch along to someone else. But each time something happens, a generous donor steps up, or the Legion commits to host the fundraiser, and he continues with his quest to share Christmas with the neediest kids.

It’s a personal thing for Jim.

"I’ve been there. I sat on my front lawn with $30 in my pocket. I told my wife we can get a Christmas tree or gifts for the kids. She told me ‘a tree because it’s not Christmas without a tree’ and somebody gave us a few toys. I never forgot that-what it meant to us. "

Next Tuesday, hundreds of people will fill the American Legion hall on Buttonwood, all to make sure that 250 needy children and their families in our area are well taken care of this Christmas season.

And later in December, Jim and Sharon Jamieson, along with Spirit of Christmas crew Lisa and Oscar Bush will oversee one marvelous day of shopping at Walmart as the children and families pick out their Christmas gifts.

If you’re having trouble finding the Spirit of Christmas, maybe you need to be a part of this event next Tuesday at the Legion Hall. There will be plenty of Christmas spirit there.

Missy Layfield