Friday, November 13, 2009

Ogunquit’s Spirit of Giving
Campaign is Underway

By Jim Kanak
Staff Columnist
In just five years, the Ogunquit Spirit of Giving Committee has established their holiday gift drive as one of the signature events in town. Since 2005, the committee has organized a campaign that ensures that many needy kids get not only Christmas presents, but ones they actually have asked for.
“Some organizations are doing great things (with Christmas giving),” said committee member Jeff Porter. “Our group makes it a little more personal. We get a wish list for a particular child, their name, age, and what they want. Then we go shop for it.”
It’s not just the 12 committee members that do the shopping, although they certainly do their share. It’s people they’ve recruited from Ogunquit, York, Cape Neddick, and Wells that take the wish lists and make them come true.
The committee’s campaign provided gifts for 350 children in 2008. That’s up from 80 in 2005, 203 in 2006, and 299 in 2007. This year they expect to do even better.
The committee works with Old Town-based Adoptive and Foster Families of Maine, specifically their Kinship Program. That program works with kids who are being raised by relatives other than their natural parents, primarily grandparents.
“It’s primarily grandparents raising their grand kids,” said Bette Hoxie, the program’s director. “Sometimes it’s an aunt or uncle. Most are on fixed incomes and most don’t get reimbursement from DHHS as foster parents do.”
Without that support, the families sometimes have problems affording Christmas presents. That’s where the committee comes in. Adoptive and Foster Families of Maine solicits wish lists from the families and then gives them to the committee. And that’s when the shopping begins.
“People sign up for how many kids they want to ‘adopt’,” Porter said. “We send information about the gifts (requested). They bring the gift wrapped with the kid’s name on it. Everyone makes an effort to make sure all the kids on the list are covered.”
The drive culminates this year on Dec. 6, with a 4 p.m. party at Maine Street in Ogunquit. That’s when people bring in all the gifts, which then are packed into trucks and taken to their destinations.
The committee members encourage volunteers to join the effort. To sign up, visit the website at or, if you don’t have access to the website, call 646-8158 and leave a message.
“We’re not really set up to accept money,” said Porter. “That’s not really the point of what we’re trying to do. We want to make that extra step to ensure a child gets what they really want to make their holiday happy.
Committee members include Porter, Jason Corbin, Irene Crocker, Jimmy Lucibello, Jim Morgan, Normand Paquin, Michael Maler, Jerry Peppe, Frances Reed, David Sullivan, Suzanne Thompson, and Mike Zamojski.
Hoxie said the committee does a great job. “They have made it possible for our families to have an amazing Christmas,” she said. “The packages are wrapped beautifully. Some who do the shopping go above and beyond. And the event they put on is wonderful.”