Needs and wishes for the homeless

After attending the Los Osos country-themed Christmas parade at 10 a.m. Saturday along Los Osos Valley Road, stop by the fourth annual Needs ’n Wishes Holiday Fundraiser for the homeless at the Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter.

The feel-good you’ll get out of it is better than watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” again. Your holiday spirit is your price for admission at the South Bay Community Center.

Richard Margetson and Jerri Walsh of Los Osos, members of the Homeless Advisory Council, founded the event. They said they’ve had anonymous donors match donations of more than $25,000, so they could raise $45,000 this year.

Margetson explained the need for the event has grown. From 2006 to 2009, the recorded number of homeless people is up to 4,900 from 2,400, with 1,000 being school-age children.

“Call us at 528-5800,” Margetson said. “We show a film to groups that will tear your heart out.”

Their strategy for support has generated a large variety of desired gift items with absolutely no overhead costs. When was the last time 100 percent of your donation went directly to people in need?

And you can complete your shopping with income-tax benefits. Hundreds of auction items, gift certificates, baked goods, crafts, toys, hamburgers, beverages and musical entertainment are donated.

“We wanted Los Osos to host this event,” Walsh said. “The holiday fun, music and spirit of giving goes from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., but get there before 6 p.m., when the auction closes.”

Walsh and Margetson want to dispel several myths about the homeless. San Luis Obispo County does have families in distress from upside-down mortgages or lost jobs, who might live in their cars during their temporary setback. A larger shelter than the current one with 49 beds will not bring more homeless people to the county, they said.

“The homeless could be any one of us,” Margetson said. He mentioned several amazing stories: the little girl getting straight A’s doing her homework by the car dash light; the successful businessman donating $1,000 because he was once homeless for eight months; the homeless veterans we exposed to the elements of war but can’t protect from the elements at home; the volunteer with a sick husband at home who refuses to give up her station on Christmas; the Cambria Rotary Interact students challenging themselves to collect $2,000 to fill the giant water bottles; the family that takes their three kids to buy toys for Toys for Tots.

“About 2:30-ish, Supervisor Adam Hill has some good news,” Margetson added. “The holidays are a time of giving — a time of compassion.”

Reach Judy Salamacha at 801-1422 or jsalamacha@yahoo.com.