Hunger during the holidays is especially tough, and in 1987, it was a serious problem with little relief options for families. Share the Spirit launched to help families who didn’t have access to food assistance during the holidays.

Thirty years later, one in four children is still at risk of going to bed hungry in the state of Oklahoma according to the USDA Household Security Report. In Rogers County, there are 11,500 food insecure individuals and 4,600 food insecure children according to the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma.

Share the Spirit combats hunger every December by purchasing food or receiving donations for Christmas Day and distributing Turkey, Ham, fresh fruits and vegetables, stuffing, desserts and canned goods that could carry families through to the new year.

Longtime board member Pat Reeder recalls one recipient who was found rummaging through garbage bins behind KFC.

“I don’t remember who helped him, but the next year when I saw him, he was helping package and distribute Share the Spirit baskets,” said Reeder. “ I talked with him, bragged on him, and he told me it felt good to pay back. I think of him every year, and I know it is for people like him that Share the Spirit was started.”

The foundation is governed by a board of volunteers who organize the event and gather the donations. The baskets are created by a combination of both monetary donations used for bulk purchases at Warehouse Market in Claremore and canned food donations from area schools and other community members.

The foundation partners with Oklahoma Department of Human Services to register families and distribute the food items.

However, the families do not need to meet any financial need requirement or be enrolled in welfare to qualify for the food assistance. Each year, the group helps more than 900 Rogers County families enjoy a hot meal during the holidays.

“It gives you a wonderful feeling to know that you are able to help those in need or maybe just down on their luck, and the people are so thankful,” said board member Tamryn Cluck.

Cluck started with the organization six years ago after Mickey Perry asked for her help on distribution day.

“After the first time, I help I was hooked. What a great feeling knowing you can help others have a traditional Christmas meal,” she said. “After Mickey passed Dan asked if I would be on the board and serve as the Oologah distribution site.”

Cluck also brings her teenage daughter out to help every year.

“I enjoy getting to teach her to have a servant's heart,” she said. “She helped families carry the boxes to their cars, and an elderly lady came in that was partially blind. It really touched my daughter's heart to know that she was helping this lady and her family have a great Christmas. She has helped now for four years.”

This year, the goal is to raise $20,000. The funds help purchase many of the food items, namely the holiday staple - turkey and ham.

Every dollar donated helps Rogers County families. Since so many people volunteer time, the foundation operates without any administrative fees.

Tax-deductible donations may be sent to: Share the Spirit Foundation, P.O. Box 248 Claremore, OK 74017 — or delivered the Claremore Progress during office hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The Claremore Progress is located at 315 W. Will Rogers Boulevard.