Laughter.

That is the sound Char Ellig and Sara Madsen like to hear from their makeshift office at the Redwood Falls Armory each December, because they know that means things are going well.

For the fourth time, Ellig and Madsen co-coordinated the annual Share the Spirit event in Redwood County in 2018, and taking a break from their tasks on the final day for this year, they talked about what makes this event such a success.

For three days this month (this year it was Dec. 11-13), Share the Spirit brings smiles, and sometimes a few tears, to people in need through the giving of gifts in an effort to ensure they can have a Merry Christmas.

“We have a lot of fun every day we are here,” said Ellig, adding that is what volunteering should be like.

It is the volunteers, Ellig and Madsen said, who make the event such a success, as they are the ones who do the shopping and organizing and greet the families when they arrive for their gifts. 

“Many the families are coming for the first time and are nervous, because they don’t know what to expect,” said Ellig, “and when they leave they have a smile on their face.”

Madsen added that is often when they see those tears of joy, as well.

For them that is what makes the event worthwhile.

Another successful event has come to an end, and this year there were 185 families who received Christmas gifts, Christmas decorations and groceries, through the Redwood Falls Share the Spirit site. An additional 54 families were served in Lamberton.

There are so many interesting stories Ellig and Madsen have heard and experienced over the years, and it is with those stories that the donations come in from people bringing refurbished bikes (30 of them this year from those who coordinate the bike rodeo) to socks (a big collection of unique ones came in from the local Lions Club) and just about everything else in between.

Madsen said she saw fishing poles going out the door this year, which, she added, seemed like a great gift idea.

The biggest bill for Share the Spirit is for the groceries, and Ellig said this year for the first time she was able to volunteer to help with the grocery shopping. As she moved from aisle to aisle she observed others who were doing the same thing, adding she kind of felt like an elf as she performed that task.

“That was a fun experience for me,” Ellig said.

Simple things like toothbrushes can make a huge difference for a family, and with donations from various sources, every child got a new toothbrush this year.

After taking a bit of a break to catch their breath, Ellig and Madsen will hold a meeting to close out this year.

Madsen said if there is anyone out there who might be able to help them with their database and finding a way to make it more efficient they would appreciate the help.

There were some things left over at the end of the day Thursday, and some of those things will go into storage for next year. Yet, for Madsen and Ellig, nothing does any good in storage, so, if they are able, they will find other places for those items.

In fact, a number of agencies, especially those who work with kids and families, had the chance at the end of the day Thursday to come and select items they think could be used to enhance their programming.

Madsen and Ellig said they are glad to know those gifts donated through Share the Spirit will continue to make an impact throughout the year.

Some local schools will also benefit from leftover hats and mittens, added Ellig.

Although there is time away from Share the Spirit planning, one can be sure Madsen and Ellig are thinking about the next event soon after the current one comes to an end. Work officially kicks off in the fall, so people are encouraged to mark their calendars for the October time frame to start hearing about Share the Spirit again.

Ellig and Madsen expressed their heartfelt appreciation for everyone who donated, volunteered and in other ways helped to make Share the Spirit such a meaningful and impactful event again this year.