Redwood County Share the Spirit is something of an institution for the community as an opportunity to exercise charity and benevolence or to receive some much needed help and generosity heading into the holidays and winter months.
“I believe that the program is in its 39th year,” said Char Ellig, one of the coordinators.
Ellig and Sara Madsen are in their second year of jointly running Share the Spirit.
“It all started with a few social workers who gathered some gifts and supplies in shoeboxes, and it has had many changes along the way. My job is planned and organized chaos,” Ellig said as she walked through rows and rows of tables stacked with donations as numerous volunteers ferry supplies to their spots. “We easily have over 100 volunteers that help with the event. I’m honestly not sure we could ever find an exact number with so many people helping in small ways…it takes so many hands to make this work – and it’s really just awesome to see how many people want to help others in need.”
Share the Spirit is more than just the three-day distribution event which takes place on the second full week of every December. Volunteers also organize a fruit basket giveaway for referred people who might need a gift and friendly visit.
“A lot of it is just being remembered at the holidays, for so many people,” Ellig said, noting that merely having a visitor can be significant for many people, especially those in nursing homes. Volunteers deliver about 450 baskets each year.
Planning for such a huge undertaking begins in September of each year. This year the distribution program, which serves Redwood Falls and Lamberton, helped 232 families and 529 children.  With a budget near $15,000, its biggest expense each year is food.
“The way it works is families we connect with will receive a date and time to come in and select items and food that best work for them. They can also get toys and household items that they might not otherwise have or would have to sacrifice at Christmastime in order to purchase,” said Ellig.
Near a tall mound of blankets she noted that local church groups have been making or donating blankets for years now, so that everyone who comes can have a little extra warmth.
That also goes for the table full of used and new books.
“Every child gets a book,” Ellig said. “That’s a long-term investment in them.”
Many families are referred to the organization each year from outside organizations that work to help provide assistance and meet needs in the local community.
This year Share the Spirit also received nearly 20 bicycles from the Bike Alliance of Minnesota which puts on the bike rodeos through the area hospital. For many families and children the gift of a bicycle can be huge.
Sponsors aren’t just limited to businesses and community organizations, though.
This year more than 40 families were “sponsored” by individuals who shopped for food and gifts for others in need.
“Everything is kept as anonymous as possible,” Ellig said, adding that goes for both sides of the equation.
Those who may have an interest in helping for the upcoming year as a sponsor or as a volunteer are encouraged to check in at the Share the Spirit Facebook page and leave a message, so the coordinators can follow up when they begin the cycle all over again.