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Spirit of Christmas scheduled for Dec. 5
November 8, 2017

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While some might spend the months before the holidays planning for family visits or meals, several organizations on Fort Myers Beach are planning to make sure no one's left behind on Christmas.

Jim and Sharon Jamieson have set the date for their annual fundraiser, Spirit of Christmas.

The event will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 5, as always at the the American Legion hall, post 274.

"I'm in my 70s, I'm tired, but it's gotten too big to stop now," Jim said.

There's no advanced tickets to purchase and no cost to attend. A plate of food is $10 per person, and the Legion serves adult beverages. A 50's doo-wop band will provide live entertainment.

The main fundraising heft comes from Spirit of Christmas silent auction, which usually has around 50 to 60 items to bid on, Jamieson said.

This annual event raises the money the Jamiesons use to take as many families as they can out to shop at Walmart to buy whatever toys, clothes or necessities they need to give their children gifts for the holidays, whatever holiday the family celebrates. They also get the family a tree, so the gifts can be placed, wrapped, under the tree with care.

"All of it goes to giving as many families as we can find that aren't going to have a Christmas," Jamieson said. "We take them on a shopping spree. You can't do better than the parents, we take the mom or the parents because they know what their kids would want."

The Jamiesons founded their organization 15 years ago. Its mission is to help those less fortunate be able to celebrate the holidays with their families. It started when Jim and Sharon were getting ready to buy each other a silly gift at the store.

"I looked at Sharon and I said, 'you know, I don't need anything,'" Jim said. Instead, they decided to ask the store manager if he might know anyone who couldn't afford to give their kids a good Christmas. The manager introduced them to someone, and the Jamiesons spent $200 to make sure the family had a happy holiday.

The next year, it was two families. The year after, it was four. Soon, the Jamiesons were organizing fundraisers to offset the costs, and before they knew it they had founded Spirit of Christmas.

One year, Spirit of Christmas helped 400 families. Jamieson and volunteers from the Sons of the Legion and the Legion Auxiliary have to carefully vet the families to be sure they are truly in need, he said. They've gotten scammed before.

They start with the cancer center at Golisano Children's Hospital; they talk to local churches and teachers - all the people who will know families who need a helping hand.Then Jamieson will do a home visit and talk with the parents or guardians. They make sure not to repeat families, to make sure every year it's a new child in need who is getting a holiday surprise.

"I get weepy talking about some of the stories," he said.

Jamieson's dedication to helping families in need doesn't end after Dec. 25. He's been working on a dream project for several years - buying and fixing up a home to place a family in.

Jim said through the charity he'll be able to get a low-interest loan, therefore able to charge the family a well-below average monthly rent so that within eight years, the loan would be paid off and the Jamiesons could give the deed to the family and make them homeowners.

He hasn't found a house yet, but he's on the prowl for modest real estate - he plans to do as many Angel Homes as he can before he dies, he said.

"Why do I do this? Because I can," Jamieson said simply.

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