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Holiday Spirit -- Tenth annual Spirit of Christmas benefit Tuesday

December 1, 2016
Melissa Schneider - Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

It's been 10 years since two wonderful Canadian's created a local foundation to benefit children and families in need, and as the saying goes, they are truly paying it forward. Jim and Sharon Jamieson started what's now known as the Spirit of Christmas Foundation back in the early 2000s, and since then, through the help of their donors and diligent philanthropic efforts, more than 1,200 families have been helped, comprised of 5,000 children.

Every year, the duo holds a big benefit to help raise funds to make this possible, with the next taking place Tuesday, Dec. 6, from 5 to 10 p.m. at the American Legion Post 274, 899 Buttonwood Drive. All are welcome to attend, and there is no cost to enter.

Benefit-goers can enjoy a wealth of spirited fun that evening, from the numerous tables abounding with silent auctions to the raffles upon raffles, delicious food and drink specials, live music and more.

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"We are so happy that Brylcream will return again this year to perform during our annual benefit," Jim said. "They are one of the best locally known doo-wop bands in the area, and we're lucky to have them, and eager to hear (and dance to) their music."

The seemingly endless stretch of silent auction prizes up for grabs that evening will range from anything between bath and beauty makeovers, products and gift baskets to island getaways, golf packages, fishing trips and ocean adventures.

"We have even more items available to bid on than we did last year," Jim eagerly stated. "There are hotel stay packages to more than 15 hotels from around the area, 10 golf course packages, numerous gifts and prize baskets, beauty services, wings for a year at Hooters that's always a biggie, tickets to Broadway Palm, and there are many other 'smaller'?packages as well, so you don't have to feel like you have to spend a lot to win. Many wonderful family fun events, like tickets to Beach Theater, Beach Bowl, Zoomers, Jungle Golf lots of fun for the whole family."

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Another hot package item offered during the benefit is the gift-card flip. Jim explains, "You donate $100 and get $100 in gift cards (four worth $25 each). All of the money goes right to the children. We have so many participating restaurants: Charley's Boat House, Pinchers and several others. There are only 10 of these packages available, and they go very quickly every year."

Another big fund-raiser is the raffle drawing.

"We'll have a large basket of wine to be raffled off this year, as well as a Christmas tree with $250 worth of restaurant gift certificates to several local restaurants, and a 50/50 draw,"?Jim said.

All of this fund-raising is enough to get anyone hungry. But don't worry, the American Legion kitchen will be cooking up some delicious dishes that evening. Guests can choose between fettucini alfredo topped with 25 shrimp or a four-piece chicken dinner, all for $10.

"Be sure to get there early to get a parking spot and get a plate. The dinners are available until they run out. And with Brylcream performing that night, it's sure to be a packed house, so if you can, please try to carpool," Jim encouraged.

This annual event is held to help raise funds for the Spirit of Christmas Foundation, a non-profit group who gives local children and their families a Christmas a holiday they otherwise couldn't afford to celebrate.

With more than 1,200 families helped since the foundation's inception, Jim and Sharon don't plan to slow down anytime soon. The couple pain-stakingly searches for legitimate families in need through a variety of local organizations and departments even while they're up north in their Canadian home in the summer.

"We help new families every year, individually sought out by Sharon, and often picked up from the Golisano Children's Hospital, cancer families, families who are strapped with major medical bills, local schools from their teachers and supervisors who know a family is in trouble, local church pastors let us know, and social services, as well," Jim said. "We've been asked before 'why do you do this?' Why? Because we can. We want to help as many needy families and children as we can, and we're going to do this for as long as we possibly can."

The foundation's first Angel Home

The latest adventure into the Spirit of Christmas Foundation's non-profit efforts has been to obtain a home for a local family in need.

Jim explains, "Over the years, the foundation has been able to build up enough additional funds to begin its Angel Home program. We are going to use those funds to purchase a sturdy concrete-block home that needs a lot of Tender Loving Care. With our team of numerous construction and rehabilitation friends, we'll completely renovate and restore the home, giving us a cute-as-a-button house, and move in one of the family's on our list of those in need."

Working very closely with a local bank, the foundation will be able to obtain the home with a very low interest rate, allowing the "rent"?to be well below average.

"Thanks to the generosity of a certain bank, and the use of my own personal assets, a very favorable interest rate has been given to us. That will then keep the monthly mortgage rate very low," Jim said. "The personal assets allows it to be an open line of credit. So, with the Angel Home family paying lower-than-normal rent, and all of those funds being applied directly to the house's principle, the house is fully paid off in less than seven years. We then hand over the keys and the deed to the family."

But this is just the beginning. Jim and Sharon want to create numerous Angel Homes throughout the area and it all starts with the first one.

"I would love to do as many of these

Angel Homes as I can before 'The Big Guy' calls me on the note. I want to do as many as possible to leave a legacy for the Spirit of Christmas," Jim said. "Before 2017 is over, there will be an Angel Home somewhere in Lee County, and that's just the beginning."

For further information, or to make a donation to the cause, either monetarily or in the form of a gift for Tuesday's silent auctions or raffles, call Jim and Sharon, 239-463-2717, or 239-940-4236, and be sure to visit



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