By on November 21, 2012

Without the dedicated and consistent support of local citizens and business owners, it would be a very bleak Christmas for numerous local children and families, but a successful holiday program organized by the Kiwanis Club of Osoyoos has ensured the less fortunate can look forward to Christmas like everyone else.
Donna Kelso, secretary with the Kiwanis Club of Osoyoos, said the Share the Christmas Spirit program is ready to roll once again and she and fellow club members couldn’t be more excited.
“This is our biggest and most important community project of the year and we really look forward to it,” said Kelso, an Ontario woman who resided in Oliver for three years before moving to Osoyoos back in 2005.
The Share the Christmas Spirit program provides assistance to needy families throughout the town and region. The program involves having individuals, families and local businesses sponsor a family in the community by providing gifts for that family in order to allow them to have a more memorable Christmas, said Kelso.
The Kiwanis Club will be receiving applications from families through agencies such as the Ministry of Family Services, Victims Assistance, Osoyoos Food Bank, local schools and other community agencies.
“We then look for sponsors to match with the families,” said Kelso. “Sponsors do not know the name of the family they will be helping and recipient families will not know the name of their benefactor.
“This program is all about sharing the Christmas spirit and ensuring that the less fortunate in our community, especially the children, will be able to enjoy a wonderful Christmas just like everyone else. It’s all about helping needy families.”
Sponsors can help by either adopting a family or by making a cash donation to the Kiwanis Club, whose members then use the money to purchase gifts for those families who do not find sponsorship, said Kelso.
“To make this program a success, and to provide a merry Christmas for families in Osoyoos, we need the help of many in the community,” she said.
The  Share the Christmas Spirit program was first introduced in Osoyoos back in 2006 and the response has been wonderful each and every year, with the end result being dozens of local families being able to enjoy a wonderful holiday season because of the generosity of strangers, said Kelso.
“As the name implies, it’s all about sharing the Christmas spirit with those who don’t have a lot,” she said. “The response from local citizens and business owners has been fantastic since we started this several years ago and we’re hoping for the same kind of response for this year’s program.”
The local Smitty’s Restaurant is once again sponsoring a toy drive – it takes place on Friday, Nov. 30 this year – with all the donated toys being handed over to the Kiwanis Club as part of this program, said Kelso.
Numerous local families have adopted another family since the program started, she said.
“There are new families and businesses jumping on board every year, but we have had some families and businesses involved in helping us out every year since we started this back in 2006,” she said. “The people of Osoyoos have always come through for us and we couldn’t do it without them. The people who live in this community are very generous.”

The families who are being helped are asked to fill out an application form, which includes details about their children, including the size of clothes they wear, what their favourite toys are and what they would like to receive for Christmas, said Kelso.
“These are just guidelines and we never guarantee they are going to receive what they ask for, but it does help when our sponsors and our club members are looking to purchase gifts,” she said.
Seeing the smile on the faces of children who benefit from this program is what keeps sponsors and Kiwanis Club members coming back for more year after year, said Kelso.
“If it wasn’t for this program, some of these families wouldn’t have much at all at Christmas,” she said. “Knowing that a lot of children are going to be able to enjoy Christmas and will be smiling Christmas morning is what it’s all about.”
Applications by families involved in the program are usually filed by early December, which gives sponsors a couple of weeks to purchase their gifts.
Anyone who would like to sponsor a family or make a financial contribution to the Share the Christmas Spirit program can do so by calling Kelso at 250-495-7701. Applications from families needing help can also be dropped off at the Kiwanis Club office, located at 402-15 Solana Key Court in Osoyoos.

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