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NOTE: Planners for the Spirit of Giving will decide on Saturday morning whether or not to postpone based on the weather. If postponed, the event will be held on Sunday at 2pm.
For the 6th year, the Spirit of Giving event will take place in the parking lot of the First United Methodist Church on Saturday December 21st. The event began when Michael Wood realized he simply had too much stuff and asked Van Lazaroff, then pastor at FUMC, if he could give away some of it in the parking lot to those in need. A few more people decided they would join him in getting rid of some extra things they did not need as well.
The following year, Brad Aldridge and the Christ Community Church decided to to get involved as well. They decided to get a little specialized and try to round up new and gently used coats to keep people warm. That year they gave away about 100 coats. From there the event began to bloom as more churches and people got involve.
Aldridge decided that they would put racks in a box truck and build stairs up to it so people wouldn’t feel like they were standing out in a parking lot picking through clothes. The following year Holland Harper donated a container that people could walk into without having to go up stairs. The next year Harper brought in an even bigger container with doors on either end outfitted with coat racks so that people could stroll through and pick coats according to size. Last year Spirit of Giving gave away over 600 coats.
The lobby of Lamar National Bank is one drop off location where people can bring costs that they no longer need. Those coats are sorted through and dry cleaned so that all the coats are either new or clean. Coats can be dropped off through Thursday, December 19th.
Coats are not the only items being collected at various locations. Fruit baskets, electonics, blankets, toys, bicycles, can goods and other items are being collected around the community as well. On the day of the Spirit of Giving, individuals and families register starting around 8:30am. Each person is given 4 tickets. Each item at the event, regardless of value, costs one ticket.
“This reduces the chaos,” Aldridge said. “That way people don’t just run in and scoop up arms full of everything they can carry.” At 11am, Santa, on an antique fire truck, rings a bell and the shopping begins.
Over 2,000 people are served at this event and are treated with dignity. There are even “personal shoppers” who help people select clothing in both size and style.
It is disheartening to know that there are so many in need in our community while simultaneously being joyous that there are so many generous and thoughtful people helping those less fortunate.