Christmas non-profit is born
on December 6, 2012
It was a vision that would change the way they celebrated Christmas forever.
Burgundie Spears was a sophomore in college when she decided to give up her own Christmas to begin collecting clothing, toys, and food for “Christmas in Richmond,” an annual event—which became a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit in December—that helps those in need.
“The organization was literally birthed out of my spirit,” Spears, now 27, said of the faith-based organization. “It didn’t make sense to start something while we were struggling at the same time.”
When Christmas in Richmond began, Spears’ family was on the verge of losing their home. Things haven’t been much easier this year; Spears’ mother, Edna Campbell, injured her wrist working as a longshorewoman last year, and Campbell’s husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer in July. Both have been unable to work for several months, barely getting by on disability checks. Now, they’re facing eviction, while Spears herself was mandated bed rest by her doctor due to her pregnancy.
But through it all—for the seventh year in a row—Spears, along with her mother and her 11-year old sister Aaliyah Washington will give away generous amounts of new or like-new clothing, toys, and food. Last year, they estimated they gave away over a thousand toys and about a hundred bags of new or like-new clothing. With the help of some 50 volunteers, they also cooked 50 turkeys with traditional holiday sides. To minimize food waste, this year they will give out 150 boxes of groceries that families can take home.
“A program like this had not been focused in north and central Richmond,” Spears said. “Richmond has pretty much been an area that is looked over a lot.”
People have asked why the family continues the tradition when there’s so much hardship in their lives. In fact, they say, Christmas in Richmond has made them feel more connected to the people they help.
“It’s easier to relate when you’re dealing with the recipients,” Spears said. “We’re living both sides,” referring to privileges – like higher education and an income – she has had.
The idea has helped the family, too. “I used to shop and run up my credit cards and be very depressed in January thinking how I’m going to pay them off,” Campbell said of past Christmases.
For recipients, the setup of Christmas in Richmond may come as a pleasant surprise. Campbell said that for clothing, they aim to give recipients a Norsdtrom-esque shopping experience where people can browse through racks of clothing and pick what they like.
Donations will be distributed Dec. 25 from 11-3 p.m. at the North Richmond Senior Center and at the Nevin Community Center.
Even young Washington has no complaints about celebrating Christmas through absolute giving. “It makes me feel happy just to see smiles on their faces,” she said, beaming broadly.
The smile, and the spirit, has been infectious. For the first time this year there will be a “Christmas in Oakland” and a “Christmas in Vallejo,” run by families who were inspired by their work.
Donations can be dropped off at the Courtyard Mariott Hotel located at 3150 Garrity Way from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Sunday. For more information, contact Burgundie Spears (510) 932-6817, firstname.lastname@example.org or Edna Campbell (510) 860-7931, email@example.com.
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