It’s Christmas All Year ‘Round Here

It’s Christmas All Year ‘Round Here

by Susan Neuhalfen

Christmas isn’t even on the radar for many of us, but for Jim & Sugene May. It’s always right around the corner.

That’s because they are the chairmen of the Lake Cities Spirit of Christmas, an organization working with underprivileged children and families in the area to ensure that they not only have a merry Christmas, but a happy Thanksgiving as well.

Over the years, they have provided Thanksgiving food for over 1,600 families and Christmas presents for over 4,000 children in the Lake Cities area. Each child receives new clothing and several gifts for Christmas and each family has been provided with food to take home and make a Thanksgiving meal.

The most amazing thing about the organization though, is that 100% of the proceeds go directly to those in need. No salaries are paid and all work is volunteer.

“We just try to break even,” said Jim. “Anything over and above goes back into helping the kids.”

In fact, the work for the next year starts soon after Christmas ends, picking dates for the next year’s events. The 25th Annual Spirit of Christmas Fun Run is coming up on October 15, at Sycamore Bend Park in Hickory Creek. This 5k run dubbed the “SOC” run inspires runners to come wearing crazy and unusual socks.

It kicks off with an art contest among the LDISD schools to produce the perfect artwork for their run t-shirts. The contest starts at the beginning of school with the winning artwork chosen around September 20. The sponsors are featured on the back of the t-shirt while the student artwork is displayed prominently on the front.

The run is currently looking for sponsors as well as a local restaurant to provide breakfast for the runners and their guests.

“There will be about 150-200 people when you count runners, volunteers and their families,” said Jim. “We’d love to have breakfast for them.”

Runners can register at The run, however, is just the beginning for all that the Lake Cities Spirit of Christmas folks do.

Right after the run, Lake Cities Spirit of Christmas starts its canned food drive through the LDISD school system where the schools work to collect cans for families for Thanksgiving. Many local churches also get involved. Lake Cities UMC collects money for milk, eggs and butter, while the Lake Cities Church of Christ collects sugar and oil. Thousand Hills Church collects non-canned food items such as potatoes. Additional money goes to purchase gift cards for local grocery stores such as Albertsons.

Then there is the jacket drive. They accept gently worn jackets and new jackets for kids. The public is asked to donate the jackets to Corinth Cleaners, Daisy Cleaners and Comet Cleaners, who will then make the jackets look like new before they distribute them to the kids in need. Donations are accepted all year ’round.

For those on the receiving end of the Thanksgiving and Christmas gifts, the approval process is detailed and they must fill out an application to find out if they are eligible.

“It’s a fairly extensive process,” points out Sugene. “They have to live, work or worship in the Lake Cities area and have proof of financial status as well as possession of the children.”

Applications are accepted every Tuesday and Thursday, beginning the last week of September, at Lake Cities United Methodist Church all the way to Thanksgiving.

Of those accepted, the children as asked to make out their “wish list” and then the fun part starts – playing Santa Claus! The children wish lists are then “adopted” by local residents and the gift buying begins. Lake Cities Spirit of Christmas has a pre-wrapping party where they examine the gifts to make sure that those who were adopted have their gifts ready to wrap. They are sorted and verified to make sure the sizes match up with each child and the gifts are balanced for the family. Any family or child that has not been adopted out will also need to be shopped for and organized. This is a large effort by a lot of volunteers to make sure every thing is ready for the big wrap.

Whew. That’s a lot of work, but it’s not over yet. There’s the big wrapping party where all of the gifts are wrapped. Each child received 2 sets of clothing, underwear, socks, shoes, jacket and 2-3 gifts. Volunteers may wrap as many as 3,000 gifts in an evening. To know that a child has a Christmas to remember makes it all worthwhile for the Mays.

“It’s a lot of work, but in the end it just feels great,” says Sugene.

Those interested in helping should follow the Spirit of Christmas Facebook page which updates regularly their needs for the upcoming season.

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