Local organizations work together for Christmas season

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Pictured left to right are Undersheriff Ben Woods, Sheriff Don Bell, Deputy Clay Shoemaker, organizer Nancy Hines and Lt. Fernando Venegas, during the 2016 shopping trip to Wal Mart in Polson.

For two decades, a local organization has helped to make sure county children have the best Christmas possible.

Share the Spirit began in 1998 helping 175 kids, said Director Toni Young.

At one time, there were seven organizations with trees throughout the county that had tags with children’s’ names and gifts on them.

The groups were helping a lot of the same families.

As the years have gone on, the number of kids Share the Spirit has helped has crawled up to more than 1,000.

Initially, Share the Spirit helped kids up to 18 years old, but that changed five years ago when organizers changed the limit to 12 years of age due to the volume.

To help with the amount of kids, Young said that a partnership with the United States Marines and Toys for Tots was born about 15 years ago, according to the Toys for Tots Foundation coordinator Maury Morin.

The partnership helps both organizations, with Share the Spirit distributing gifts for Toys for Tots, he said.

To help with the process of passing out gifts, Young said that applications received by both Toys for Tots and Share the Spirit are cross-referenced.

Due to the volume of applications, families with children over the age of 12 are directed to the Toys for Tots website.

Young said that at the beginning of October, applications for the program are sent out to county agencies as well as elementary school counselors.

“The organization gives us back the applications” so volunteers can begin to look over the paperwork,” Young explained.

To ensure children get gifts, applications must be filled out by Dec. 5, Young said, adding that toys are distributed by Dec. 21 with Toys for Tots distributing Dec. 22.

Another partnership Share the Spirit has is with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

The Deputies Assocation raises money through a raffle and then coordinate with Share the Spirit, organizing a shopping day with kids and officers at Wal Mart in Polson.Last year, deputies raise more than $1,000 for the shopping excursion at Wal Mart.

Tickets for the raffle will be available at the LCSO at the Lake County Courthouse or Gambles Hardware, 112 N. Main Ave., St. Ignatius, according to Deputy Clay Shoemaker.

Cost of the tickets will be $5 a ticket, or five tickets for $20.

Checks can be made out to Share the Spirit, or if paying by cash, make sure to bring the exact amount desired for the raffle ticket purchase.

Shoemaker said that the raffle will benefit the shopping for Share the Spirit as well as Dogs with Wings, a nonprofit out of St. Ignatius.

Raffle winners will be drawn closer to the first of the year, Shoemaker said.

For more information on Toys for Tots, visit https://www.toysfortots.org or call (406) 212-2622.

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