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Christmas in Richmond

on December 18, 2009

When Burgundie Spears came home for Christmas in 2006, it was hard to watch her mother struggle to afford Christmas presents.  She said in that moment God sent her a vision to honor Christmas by giving to the homeless.

Earlier that year, as a sophomore at Howard University, Spears went on a missionary trip to Zimbabwe. What she saw there inspired her to help people less fortunate than herself.

“I felt obligated to serve my own community,” said Spears, who grew up in North Richmond.

When Spears’ family and friends asked what she wanted for her Dec. 19 birthday, she told them to give her food and clothes for homeless people in Richmond.  “I didn’t really take her seriously,” said Spears’ mother, Edna Campbell.

Spears assured her mother that she was serious and asked everyone she knew to help her collect enough to serve 100 people.

“The first year it was literally just my family,” Spears said.  Instead of opening packages on Christmas, Spears’ family spent the day serving food and giving out clothes at the Nevin Community Center.

The project is now known as Christmas in Richmond.  Each year Spears and her family add 100 people to the number served.  Last year they added a meals-on-wheels program.  This year, they’ve also committed to provide food and gifts to 25 families.

As an informal project, lacking tax-deductible status, Spears said it is difficult to get donations for Christmas in Richmond.  She hopes the program stands out as a unique effort led by Richmond residents.

“I wanted it to be personal, literally the type of clothes my family would wear and the food we would eat,” Spears said.

Spears said she especially hopes to inspire other young people to make a change.

“If you see the problem, step out and be the solution,” she said.

This year, at least 10 volunteers from the Bay Area Stop the Hate Movement will give up time with their families on Christmas Day to volunteer for Christmas in Richmond.

“It’s an honor to be out there and give something to someone during what I would consider my time,” said Timothy Jackson IV. Jackson founded the Bay Area Stop the Hate Movement two years ago to involve young people in positive efforts in the community.

Spears recently moved to Texas, so her mother is leading the efforts in Richmond. Instead of a Christmas tree and lights decorating their house, Campbell has a donation collection bin on her porch.  She and her 8-year-old daughter canvas the neighborhood with fliers in their spare time.

This year they are trying to serve 400 Richmond residents, but Campbell said she is far from that goal. The organization is especially in need of more toy donations. But Campbell said she has faith they will reach their goal.

“I don’t know when and how,” she said. “But it’s going to happen.”

HOW TO HELP|Drop off donations of toys, food or clothes at Windermere Rowland Realty
400 Appian Way in El Sobrante. More information on how to volunteer with Christmas in Richmond is online at

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