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Share Helps Those in Need

Volunteers, donations always welcome

During the Christmas season, Share Inc. provides baskets of food and presents to families that need a little to ensure there's something to enjoy Christmas morning.

"I'm very glad to put my efforts toward helping others," said Jean Respass, director of the Christmas Store that Share Inc. holds every year at the McLean Baptist Church.

"This year, the store was a huge success. We had about 182 families and helped a total of 1,096 people," Respass said. All of the gifts provided to families were new and had been donated to Share by people in the community.

One member of a family that had been selected by Share to receive presents was escorted through the store, selecting gifts for their relatives, ranging from clothing and toys to gift cards and toiletries, Respass said.

"We want to give a huge thank-you to those who helped us out in any way, especially to the church for the use of their facilities, and those who donated gifts," she said.

However, the need for help isn't just felt at Christmastime.

"We're open year-round. We have a food pantry that's open on Wednesdays and the first and third Saturday of every month," she said. "We also help people with prescriptions if they need money, paying rent, getting rides to and from doctor's appointments."

Share does not receive any funding from government sources, relying solely on donations from individuals or local organizations.

"We're supported by area churches, families, civic organizations, synagogues," she said. "We accept clothes, food and furniture any time of year."

Share also "adopts" several families during the holiday season to provide baskets of food for a Christmas dinner.

"A FAMILY CAN ADOPT, anonymously, another family in the area to provide Christmas for them," she said. "They drop off food and presents at the church and we wrap them, and the families pick up their gifts at the Redeemer Lutheran Church."

About 40 percent of families return to Share from year to year for assistance, Respass said. "We have a lot of older people on fixed incomes that aren't eligible for any public assistance and can't get by without our help."

"Share, like other community-based organizations, all experience an increase in demand and a slight decrease in resources this time of year," said Share president Vic Kimm. "During the Christmas season, we mostly focus on kids and families and people who need clothing and support. There are more people who need our help at Christmas or their holiday would be pretty bleak."

Kimm said it's "hard to match the needs" of the people Share helps with the resources and volunteers available. "We recruit volunteers and try to give them all something meaningful to do. That's the core of making most of what we do possible."

"Our organization is fortunate enough to have the space to house the food and clothing side of Share here, but by no means is it our program," said Michael Catlett, pastor at the McLean Baptist Church. "It's completely run by volunteers."

It takes people from all religious backgrounds to make the organization work, he said, and in his almost 15 years with the church, he's seen that more volunteers are needed to allow the help to continue.

"People think because McLean is such an expensive place to live, that there isn't a great need for help, but there is. Share is called upon more and more to assist folks, and we could always use more help," he said.

As a man of the cloth, Catlett said his job is more to advise and offer support to those who come for help than to add to his congregation.

"I want to make sure our church is available and that our congregants know what's going on and help Share out," he said.

Families that apply for aid from Share are screened to make sure their need is sincere, Respass said, but no one in need is turned away.