Over the past two decades, Spirit of Sharing has brightened Christmas for several thousand young boys and girls struggling from poverty and hunger in the gateway immigrant city of Lawrence. This unique Season of Advent initiative was conceived and launched within our collaborative by a group of St. John-St. Paul parishioners and Saint John School families, and we are deeply grateful for Fr. Jim Laughlin’s enthusiastic continuing support.
Each year, Fr. Paul O’Brien, pastor of St. Patrick Parish, Lawrence, carefully screens families living in Lawrence for financial need, and Spirit of Sharing enables parents/guardians to personally choose gifts their children will enjoy.
According to Father Paul,
Lawrence is one of the most economically challenged in our country. With 90,000 residents now, Lawrence is the most of-color community in New England (88% people of color; 81% Hispanic), the fastest growing community in Massachusetts (10% growth, according to the most recent census), and one of the youngest (average age is 32). With double the Massachusetts state-wide poverty rate (21%) and half of the state’s average per capita income ($20,858), two-thirds of Lawrence’s homes are headed by single parents, many of whom work two to three jobs. For most people in Lawrence, over 80% of expenditures are spent on rent, groceries, healthcare, and commuting, often leaving no money available for gifts.
I believe every child should receive a present at Christmas, regardless of family income. Through Spirit of Sharing, friends are eager to sacrifice some of the blessings they have received to provide beautiful Christmas gifts for children in Lawrence.
Three Ways to Provide a Christmas Gift for a Child Living in Poverty in Lawrence
- Choose a gift from the online charitable registry – order from the Amazon Wish List by Friday, December 8 and it will be shipped promptly: https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/77XPGNESYFPK/
- Mail a gift* you have chosen from elsewhere – mail a new, unwrapped gift by Friday, December 8 to this secure nearby address: Saint Patrick Parish/Spirit of Sharing, 733 Turnpike St., Box 332, North Andover, MA 01845
- Donate funds to purchase a gift – donate tax-deductible funds for the purchase of gifts by Tuesday, December 12:
*Gift Recommendations: Lawrence focus group gift recommendations include: new, unwrapped, cheerful items for boys and girls ages 3 to 14, including: warm vests, sweatshirts, warm tops, and hats; Celtics, Red Sox, Patriots spirit wear; Disney, Marvel, Star Wars, LEGO, Barbie, and GI Joe items; other action figures; dolls; stuffed animals; building blocks; learning games; electronic games; small hair dryers and colorful barrettes and claw clips for girls; regulation-size basketballs, footballs, and soccer balls; art and crafts; scooters, tricycles, and bicycles; blankets and sleeping bags; English and Spanish beginning reader books.
An Opportunity to Volunteer with your Friends and Family during Advent on Saturday, December 16
Gift selections by parents/guardians will take place Saturday, December 16 from 8:00am to 12:00pm at St. Patrick Parish Hall (118 South Broadway, Lawrence.) Kindly consider volunteering with family and friends (ages 13 and up) for all or a portion of this time. Tasks include:
- Unpacking and sorting presents and arranging them on tables
- Keeping tables orderly
- Greeting parents/guardians and teaming up with another volunteer to help them choose gifts for their children
Spanish language skills would be helpful but are not necessary! Refreshments and community service certificates provided! To volunteer, please contact Kelly Jacobs at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Every gift counts – and by Christmas morning your gift will be in the hands of a child living at risk in Lawrence.
To be sure, gratitude runs deep – Fr. Paul’s assistant, Diane Jarvis, recalled after last year’s selection day, for example,
A father on his way out with toys stopped to say thank you to us and started crying because he was so happy he could give his children Christmas presents. He said he was going to go home and kneel down and thank God for people that cared because prayer was the only thing he could give back. A mother with two young girls told me she had been able to save only $5.00 to spend on gifts for them. She was so grateful Spirit of Sharing provided the gifts she could never afford, and said it would be their best Christmas ever.
If you would like to help, kindly arrange a gift soon or email us to sign up to volunteer. Thank you!
Marlene O’Brien, Kelly Jacobs, Lucy Kapples, Sally Miller and Stephanie Morgan