North to Ninilchik, south to Seldovia and everywhere in between, neighbors are reaching out to neighbors in the holiday spirit of joy and giving. Maybe it’s a visit with Santa, complete with a stocking of goodies. Maybe it’s leaving a dollar or more in a collection kettle. Maybe it’s making a donation in exchange for having gifts wrapped. Or maybe it’s helping put together boxes of food.
Whatever it is, there are plenty of ways to make the season a little brighter.
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10221
Food baskets, presents and Christmas dinner are being coordinated by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10221.
“If anyone wants to make a donation, drop it off at the VFW or the (Anchor Point) Senior Center or Anchor Point Supply,” said spokesperson Jennifer Henley. “Canned goods, anything you want. We’re thankful to have it.”
Presents for youngsters are included in the food baskets, thanks to the Marine Corps League.
“It’s just a fabulous donation,” said Henley of the gifts. “They go and purchase all these gifts for teens on down and set up a time to wrap them.”
A traditional Christmas dinner also will be served at the VFW at 3 p.m. Dec. 25.
“It’s for everybody, anybody,” said Henley. “You don’t have to bring a dish, but you can always share.”
Anyone needing a little help with the holidays can call the VFW, “but don’t wait until the last minute,” said Henley.
Share the Spirit
Information line: 235-7466
Share the Spirit is a community-wide effort providing gifts and food boxes to neighbors in need of help. The deadline to apply is 6 p.m. tomorrow. Leave applications at the drop-off spot at Wells Fargo.
“If you’re looking for an application, they’re at human service agencies all over town and at churches,” said Shari Daugherty, the basket co-chair. “If someone doesn’t have an application, call the information line, say you need an application and we’ll take it to an agency, fax it or manage to get it to you. We have elves available on that date to get (the applications) to who needs them.”
Until Dec. 20, gift trees can be found at Alaska USA Federal Credit Union, First National Bank Anchorage, Kachemak Gear Shed, Homer Bookstore, Timeless Toys, Total Office, Ulmer’s and Wells Fargo.
On Dec. 20, food is picked up, gifts are wrapped and the boxes put together for distribution.
“Brawny, muscled individuals with pickups and SUVs can meet me at Safeway at 7 a.m.,” said Daugherty of volunteers needed to take bulk food to the high school.
Food donations, especially hams, can be brought to the high school that morning. Packages of good fish and game also are being accepted.
Anyone wanting to organize the baskets and wrap gifts can stop by the school between 8 a.m.-4 p.m. that day. Volunteer gift wrappers are encouraged to bring their own scissors and tape.
Area schools are helping with the effort. On Dec. 19, the Homer High student body will organize the commons for the activity on the 20th. At Paul Banks Elementary School, Principal Eric Pederson said the school’s pre-kindergarten through second-graders are leaving donations of non-perishable food items in a dog sled near the school’s front door. Principal Pete Swanson said until Dec. 20 McNeil Canyon Elementary School students are decorating that school’s “Helpful Holiday Tree” with new gloves and hats, are putting donations of non-perishables under the tree and, until Friday, are donating cans of tomatoes for the dry bean soup kits the school gives to the Homer Community Food Pantry.
Boy and Girl Scout troops also help with Share the Spirit and Daugherty said it isn’t unusual for “van loads of kids to show up” to help on Dec. 20.
The basket give-away is Dec. 21. Applicants will receive slips of paper indicating the time they are to pick up their baskets and should bring those slips of paper with them on the 21st.
American Legion Auxiliary, Unit 16
Contact Jackie Norvell: 235-3262
Members of American Legion Auxiliary Unit 16 are offering their gift-wrapping expertise at Ulmer’s from noon-5 p.m. Dec. 14-Dec. 23 and from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Christmas Eve. There is no set fee, but donations are accepted and used to support veterans programs, said spokesperson Jackie Norvell.
“We used to charge a set amount, but it works out better letting people pay what it’s worth to them,” said Norvell. “Some are very generous. Some can’t afford as much. It all comes out well.”
Items to be wrapped aren’t limited to those purchased at Ulmer’s, but for those that are, a proof of purchase is necessary.
“You’d be amazed at how many people come up to us to have something wrapped and then realize they haven’t paid for it yet,” said Norvell. “We’re absolutely more than happy to wrap anything from anywhere, but if it’s something Ulmer’s sells, we need to see proof it was paid for.”
Volunteer gift-wrappers also are needed. Call Norvell to sign-up.
Volunteer bell-ringers for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle program top the list of what Lt. Jeff Josephson wants for the holidays.
“We really could use the help. Call and leave a message saying you’d like to help and we’ll call back that evening,” said Josephson. “We have two-hour slots, but some people can only ring for an hour. … We’re really flexible.”
The kettles are located at Safeway and Ulmer’s between 10 a.m.-6 p.m. six days a week, Mondays through Saturdays.
“The season is five days shorter for us,” said Josephson of the shortened time this year between Thanksgiving and Christmas. “Any help we can get will be immensely appreciated.”
Donations stay in Homer and are used as rental assistance, to pay for power bills, to purchase food, oil and firewood “and we just try to help people that are having some kind of event in their lives that they can’t seem to get past without a little assistance,” said Josephson.
Local donations of $10 also can be made by texting I-GIVE-HOMER at 80888.
A holiday meal will be served at the Salvation Army Church at 12:30 p.m. Dec. 22.
“It’s open to anyone that wants to come,” said Josephson.
American Legion Post 18
Contact Amy Garroutte: 907-567-1002
Several years ago the Sons of the American Legion invited Santa to a community Christmas party in Ninilchik. The event has continued each year with the whole American Legion Post 18 family and different businesses and organizations now involved.
This year the party takes place at Ninilchik School at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“Ninilchik Emergency Services delivers Santa with the fire truck,” said Amy Garroutte, who is helping organize the event.
Sign-up sheets were posted around town for the last three weeks to let Santa know how many youngsters would attend.
“We anticipate about 80 kids,” said Garroutte. “And each kid gets a stocking filled with toys, candy and fun things.”
Mrs. Claus will be on hand, as will a couple of Santa’s elves. In addition to a stocking of goodies, each youngster will be served a hot dog, beverage and chips. Door prizes also will be awarded.
To help prepare, volunteers gather at the American Legion at 1 p.m. Friday to wrap gifts and stuff stockings. Donations of gift wrap can be left at the post. Monetary donations also are being accepted and checks can be made out to “The Santa Party.”
“Betty Randall has (coordinated) this for all these years and she’s done a wonderful job,” said Garroutte, who is co-chairing with Randall this year in preparation of taking over the task next year.
Anyone wanting to help with next year’s party can call Garroutte.
Seldovia Village Tribe
Contact Laurel Hilts: 435-3252
On the south side of Kachemak Bay, Seldovia Village Tribe and Seldovia Bible Chapel are partnering to distribute Christmas boxes to families in that area.
“The boxes are filled with items to make a complete Christmas dinner, including turkey and all the trimmings,” Ian McGaughey, SVT spokesperson, said in a Dec. 4 press release.
This community tradition began more than 20 years ago. This year, about 40 turkeys and other items will be distributed.
Anyone wanting to help assemble or distribute the boxes, make a donation or suggest a family that could benefit can contact Laurel Hilts.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.