Share the Spirit donations hit all-time high this year

Photo: Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group

Readers touched by this newspaper’s stories of those less fortunate have donated $268,583 to the annual Share the Spirit campaign benefiting the nonprofits that help them — a record amount.

The fundraiser, jointly administered by the East Bay Times and the Contra Costa Crisis Center, supports local nonprofits in Contra Costa and Alameda counties. Stories of those agencies and the people they help appeared in this newspaper throughout the holiday season.

Though checks are still coming in and there is no deadline for giving, donations made during the holiday season already have exceeded the previous year’s by 22 percent as of Jan. 5, according to Tom Tamura, executive director at the Contra Costa Crisis Center, said.

“Donations were coming in pretty steadily from the beginning,” he said.

Overall, 49 nonprofits serving roughly 38,000 people will benefit from the grants. “Our single largest individual donation was $10,000 and the smallest was $5, and they all matter,” Tamura said.

“Our company’s mission is to serve the communities of the Bay Area, and we consider Share The Spirit one of the most meaningful projects we do each year,” Sharon Ryan, publisher of Bay Area News Group, which includes the East Bay Times, said of the program.

Now in its 26th year, Share the Spirit is supported by individual, foundation and business contributions.

Since its inception, the Dean and Margaret Lesher Foundation has supported the program with matching donations up to $25,000, and this year was no exception.

Bay Area News Group also makes donations, this year adding $3,955, according to company marketing manager Sharnel Ross.

Tamura said the newspaper’s stories bring home to readers the survival struggles of their neighbors and make them aware of nonprofits they might not have known about before.

This year, readers seemed especially touched by a story on Shower House Ministries, which delivers free showers, toiletries and meals to the homeless in East County, and by one about the Assistance League Diablo Valley, which provides shows for people in senior care facilities, Tamura said.

Ken Rickner of Shower House Ministries said the money helps him buy needed supplies such as propane, food, backpacks, paper plates, silverware, toiletries, soap and cleaning supplies for the showers.

“I stock up on stuff I need to help me get through the year,” he said. “I can’t do this on my own — we don’t pass an offering plate. I get money from private donations. We would just have the bare minimum if it wasn’t for the Share the Spirit program …”

Christine Dillman of Tri-Valley Haven, which serves victims of sexual trauma and domestic abuse, as well as families, also touted the donation campaign’s importance in helping the nonprofit buy gifts for teenagers and adults for their holiday giveaway program.

“It’s vital — thank goodness we live in a generous community, but we don’t get a lot of (donated) teen items … The Share the Spirit is so helpful because we can buy items for teens and adults that we otherwise wouldn’t have.”

Other featured stories this season included ones on Danville-based Down Syndrome Connection, which offers support for parents; Meals on Wheels Diablo Region, which provides food for homebound seniors; and Options Recovery Service, which offers help for alcoholics and drug addicts in Oakland and Berkeley.

“We’re really grateful that Bay Area News Group can do the stories so the public can see the great work being done in Alameda and Contra Costa counties by so many nonprofits,” Tamura said.

To read this year’s stories of the people helped by the nonprofit grants, go to