Friday, November 12, 2010

Spirit of Giving: A True Community Event

By Molly McCoy
Staff Columnist
Deck the halls! As unbelievable as it seems, it’s getting to be that time of year again. The time for turkeys and trees, coats and sweaters, and the dreaded, dreaded receipt season. In the past few weeks, I have become increasingly excited about the coming holidays – even a 22-year-old can look forward to the proverbial “Santa” – and yet, the adults around me seem to concur on a general complaint. “Oh, it’s all about money,” one woman says in response to my glee. “It’s all about expensive presents and expensive food and I wish we could all just be together without all the commotion and expectation. You’ll learn when you have kids…”
But for one organization in Ogunquit, receipts are the last things on their minds.
In its sixth year, Ogunquit Spirit of Giving – a small, local, non-profit organization – is endeavoring to bring holiday cheer to more than 400 deserving children across the state of Maine. This year, Spirit of Giving donations are benefiting children associated with the organization’s long-time partner, Adoptive & Foster Families of Maine, Inc., in addition to the children of Frannie Peabody Center, a new charitable commitment for the Giving committee. With five years of positive response and happy kids behind them, the expectations on the part of these organizations could be, I imagine, pretty high.
“We’re concerned we’ll have to turn kids away that have already made requests,” says Spirit of Giving committee member, Frances Reed. “Sponsors’ budgets are tight, too.”
When a child makes a “request” through AFFM or Frannie Peabody Center, the Spirit of Giving Committee receives a first name, age, sizes, and a few gift requests. For example: Brittany, 14, medium, and “anything girly, teen pop music, likes pink, hair accessories.” Sure, some kids throw in the occasional X-box or iPod, but Reed says, “It’s just because they have no idea how much those things cost.”
A more heart-wrenching request goes like this: Sam, 10, size 3, grateful for anything, needs boots.
Hearing that, the woman complaining about gifts and expenses at the holidays comes back to my mind. For many of these kids, boots could be the best, if only, present under their tree. No manic shopping trips. No overbearing mothers-in-law complaining about your casserole. Just a child content with their warm shoes.
Ogunquit Spirit of Giving is looking for help. With a tall order ahead of them, they have already begun assigning kids and families to sponsors, but the ratio is not in their favor. Like Reed said, they are worried they won’t meet their goal, and 5-year-old Sarah, who perhaps benefited last year and has already asked for a Polly Pocket, will be turned away.
For just $35-$50, you can sponsor one of these children in need, and contribute to a great cause that is gaining momentum in not only a town, but a community. As a sponsor, you receive information about a child (or children), you get to wrap the presents yourself, and you bring them to a party on Sunday, December 5 at MaineStreet Bar, 195 Main Street, Ogunquit. There, you place your gifts under one of the color-coded trees, and the rest of the night is spent celebrating together with the community of sponsors. It sounds to me like the perfect remedy to those Ebenezer complaints.
“This group takes the adage that it ‘takes a village to raise a child’ to a new and higher meaning,” says Bette Hoxie, director of AFFM, commenting about the 2007 event. Considering Ogunquit itself is home to less than 50 children, that comment seems particularly appropriate, as individuals – not businesses – “adopt” multiple children each year through this event. “In spite of the high costs of fuel and the cold weather, we are truly blessed in the richness of citizens who really care and are not afraid to let it show,” adds Hoxie.
So, when you look around at the turkeys and the trees, the sweaters and the coats, and anticipate your own, dreaded receipt season, consider how thirty-five extra dollars on that bill might put a pair of boots under Sam’s tree. It might be the best-spent $35 on that list.
Child and family sponsor assignments have already begun. To learn more about Ogunquit Spirit of Giving and how to sponsor a child or family, visit, or contact the committee at
Photo caption: Sponsors taking a look at all the presents donated at last year’s Ogunquit Spirit of Giving event, which benefit children throughout the state. This year’s event is on Sunday, December 5. (Courtesy photo)