Share the Spirit began out of a shoebox - literally.
The annual volunteer program to give gifts to Redwood area needy families has grown considerably since then -- and with it, the need for donations.
In 1977, two Redwood County social workers were looking for a way to help make a difference in the lives of people in need over the holidays.
According to Laurie Dolan, those two individuals working with Redwood County Social Services started putting together shoeboxes in their spare time. Those boxes were filled with things for families they knew had a need.
It was their way of sharing the spirit of the holidays with others.
From that first effort 25 years ago, an organization has been developed known as Share the Spirit, and through this volunteer program hundreds of families who have a need in the Redwood area are being served.
Dolan, who is the coordinator for Share the Spirit, said the program has transformed into an organization all of its own.
In the past, different organizations in the community, including the Redwood Area Food Shelf, the senior citizens center and others worked together doing different portions of the program from collecting food and toys for the families.
Now one group made up of more than 100 volunteers from the Redwood area work together to create what is known as Share the Spirit, and according to Dolan the group is currently working to make the holidays special again this season.
A variety of opportunities exist for people who would like to volunteer for Share the Spirit, whether it is working the phones during the days leading up to distribution or shopping for groceries.
Dolan said Share the Spirit is able to continue year after year because of the incredible generosity of the volunteers, sponsors and other donors.
Share the Spirit, added Dolan is made possible through the donations of businesses, organizations, clubs, churches, families and individuals who are doing their part to make a difference during the Christ-mas season.
Some of those volunteers have been involved with the program for more than two decades, and Dolan joined Share the Spirit in 1992. She is now helping to coordinate the program each year.
“It has been a pleasure being involved in such a wonderful organization for the last 20 years that brings people together,” said Dolan. “Christmas is a sentimental holiday season – a time when many people choose to remember family, to show appreciation for friendships, to take the time to remember those young and old who are alone and lonely and other families who may be down on their luck.”
The time to volunteer is now, she said.
During the 2011 Share the Spirit campaign, there were 249 families, including 428 children, who were served.
The expenses for Share the Spirit in 2011 were $12,000. Dolan reminded the public donations made to Share the Spirit are tax deductible.
In addition to providing food and toys, Share the Spirit collects winter wear and makes fruit baskets for the “forgotten people” in area nursing homes.
Quilts and blankets may also be donated, and those may be dropped off during regular business hours at the Redwood Gazette and Wabasso Standard offices.
Volunteers are going to be on hand to answer questions about Share the Spirit starting Nov. 26 through Dec. 10.
Distribution is going to take place Dec. 11-13 in Redwood Falls at the National Guard Arm-ory and in Lamberton Dec. 12 at the community center.
In Red-wood Falls calls can be made to (507) 430-5229, and in Lam-berton calls can be made to (507) 648-3442 or (507) 6752-7657. Dolan expressed her appreciation to all who have and are going to donate to Share the Spirit.