Seated around the table at Char Ellig’s home, Ellig, Char Burgemeister and Sara Madsen were spending time organizing and talking about the annual event known as Share the Spirit.

As Ellig and Burgemeister talked, Madsen was busy on her phone communicating with people asking questions about how they could get involved.

In the time this reporter sat and talked about Redwood County Share the Spirit in 2018, Madsen said she had responded to nine messages from people. That, said the trio of organizers, is what makes this event such a success year after year – the people who volunteer, provide sponsorships and donate to help others in Redwood County who are in need.

Share the Spirit is being held for the 41st time in Redwood County in 2018, and over the years thousands of people have been helped as Share the Spirit helps “provide for the overall basic essential need of toys, food, winter wear and blankets” for many families in Redwood County. 

Madsen stressed Share the Spirit is a program for all of Redwood County. One year ago, 235 families received help through Share the Spirit, including 531 children.

In addition, there were 500 fruit baskets delivered, with small gifts given to those forgotten people in area nursing homes.

According to Ellig, there have already been 50 applications submitted to Share the Spirit, and she added those organizations and agencies who are involved in helping people apply are looking for additional applications.

The need seems to be getting bigger, said Ellig.

All applications for help must be in to Share the Spirit or postmarked by Nov. 23 in order to be considered. Those that come after that date will be placed on a waiting list.

Donations are also starting to come in to Share the Spirit, said Ellig, who said they are already at about 30 percent of the funding that came in one year ago. The 2017 expenses exceeded $20,000.

Planning for Share the Spirit actually gets started in September of each year, as organizers begin putting together the event.

Burgemeister, who coordinates the toy collection and the pool of volunteers, said those who may be interested in helping in those areas should contact her through Share the Spirit. People are especially needed to help set up for distribution days at the National Guard Armory in Redwood Falls. Those dates when people will be coming in to pick up their gifts are Dec. 11-13.

A second distribution event is being held in Lamberton Dec. 12 at the community center.

The Share the Spirit organizers expressed their thanks to those who come out to help, as well as those who donate to the cause, adding this is an event that could not happen without the strong support of the community.

Whether it is the cart crew that comes in each morning to help set up and then assists families who come to load their items once they have been selected or the “shoppers” who walk the tables with those who come to assist them in finding what they need, those who continue to make time for Share the Spirit are much appreciated.

“I could not tell you how many people we have who volunteer,” said Ellig.

Madsen added they come in, do their thing and leave, many without even being thanked. The armory is a very busy place during those three days in town.

Burgemeister said only new toys are accepted for Share the Spirit, adding one of the areas that continues to be a challenge for the group is finding toys for teenagers. That is also the area where more toys could really help. Toys are distributed to kids ages birth to 17.

Burgemeister admitted it is not easy to buy for teens, adding in the past sports-related items, as well as those focused on the outdoors seem to be popular.

Gift cards to local businesses are also a great gift idea. Those cards in $10 and $20 amounts can then be used by families to get the things they know their children would like. Keeping things local is important, added Ellig, simply because many of the people who are being served don’t have the capacity to get out of town.

Quilts and blankets are also being accepted. The quilts and blankets that are donated each year are great, said Ellig, adding people really appreciate them.

Volunteers will be on hand at the armory in Redwood Falls from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. starting Nov. 26 and continuing through Dec. 10.

Madsen said holiday decorations are another item that is appreciated.

Whether it being something as simple as wrapping paper and tape to offering Christmas trees and holiday-themed decorations, those items are very popular. Ellig said for parents knowing they can not only get gifts for their children but can also wrap them up is a pretty big deal.

“For so many who come, this really is their Christmas,” said Ellig.

All gifts are tax deductible, as Share the Spirit is a non-profit organization that operates through the Redwood Area Communities Foundation.

The need for help exists in Redwood County, and those who help to organize Share the Spirit are counting on the help of the community to make 2018 another great year.

To learn more about getting involved as a volunteer, donor or family sponsor, contact Share the Spirit at (507) 430-5229 or send an e-mail to Redwoodsharethespirit@gmail.com.

In Lamberton, contact Marg Weber at (507) 648-3442.

Additional information may also be found on the Redwood Share the Spirit Facebook Page.