Story last updated at 3:15 p.m. Thursday, December 12, 2002

Santas come in many forms on lower peninsula
Christmas could come early for Homer area residents who suffered loss or damage during the flooding that ravaged the lower Kenai Peninsula in late October.

Santa, in the form of representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is in town through Saturday. State and volunteer agencies will also be on hand at an impromptu Disaster Recovery Center set up in Homer to assist affected property owners in navigating the reimbursement process.

The program is a fine example of government being there for people when it is needed most. In these times of less government being thought of as good government, it should be encouraging to everybody that this kind of speedy and helpful response is possible.

Once preliminary screening is done and an application is approved, reimbursement is expected to take no more than 15 days. Considering the maze of bureaucracy that can delay other matters of government assistance much longer, this is a welcome announcement, especially at this time of year.

The program is not just for property owners, either. Renters also are eligible. Anyone who lost property that is not covered by insurance may be eligible for reimbursement, although there are restrictions.

The Disaster Recovery Center is located at Homer City Hall in city council chambers. But potential applicants need to call ahead and make an appointment. FEMA's toll-free number is (800) 621-FEMA.

Affected residents should be sure to take advantage of the FEMA visit. It doesn't get any easier than this.

The opportunity to play Santa is also available to Homer area residents this week, as the annual Share the Spirit Christmas gift program heads into its final days. Anyone interested in making the holidays brighter for a needy family can visit one of eight sites in town and choose an item or items off a personalized wish list.

Here's how it works: Wells Fargo, First National Bank, Eagle Quality Center, Ulmer's, Bay Realty, Coastal Realty, Espresso Express and Timeless Toys all have Share the Spirit Christmas trees sporting ornaments that list a particular gift wish of someone in the area. Items range from a mother's wish for a used vacuum cleaner, to a 14-year-old girl's wish for school supplies, to a 5-year-old boy's wish for winter boots.

Anyone desiring to participate as a giver can choose whatever gifts they'd like to supply, then return them either to the tree they came from or to Wells Fargo bank. There are a variety of needs waiting to be filled.

According to Share the Spirit volunteer Shari Daugherty, by the weekend there will be between 300 and 350 gift wishes still unfilled. That's a lot of opportunity for aspiring Homer Santas to make the holidays happier for needy families.