Buying gifts that keep on giving

The holiday spirit shines in Los Osos this Saturday. Starting at 10 a.m., the Los Osos-Baywood Park Chamber of Commerce Holiday Parade musically saunters down Los Osos Valley Road from Fairchild Way to Palisades Avenue.

Then everyone gathers at the South Bay Community Center for the annual Needs and Wishes benefit auction for purposeful holiday buying.

Purchase big items and little items — favorite toys, gifts, gift certificates, yummy pies — at affordable prices. One hundred percent of your investment directly supports the Maxine Lewis Memorial Homeless Shelter — amazing by nonprofit standards.

Celebrate with music, comfort food and free cookies as you shop.

Los Osos’ Richard Margetson and Jerri Walsh and their many “elves” saw the need to create the fundraiser. Local generosity has catapulted the event, in its fifth year, into the largest funding resource for the shelter and the Prado Day Center.

“We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. It’s not a government program,” Walsh said. She enjoys seeing parents bring their children to participate in the gift buying while reminding them their purchases help the less fortunate. “Sometimes, people just need a helping hand to get them back on track.”

Dee Torres, director of homeless services at the center, told these stories: “In March 2009, a 52-year-old female needed services. Struggling with family issues, she’d find temporary jobs. Finally, she landed a good job with a local seed company. On Nov. 1, she moved into her own place.

“Although she worked full-time, a single mom of three children needed the services for two months to save funds for an apartment deposit. The center also provided the children with clothing, making them feel comfortable as they began the school year.

“In September 2009, a 33-year-old man needed shelter services. He immediately looked for work and found temporary then full-time work. Evenings, he always helped with chores and would finish chores for others before catching his bus for work.

“With case management support, he saved funds to move into his own place this month.

“In August 2007, a 42-year-old man with (chronic obstructive lung disease) and emphysema had been denied medical benefits. Case management helped him through the maze, and he was finally awarded (federal Supplemental Security Income). He banked 70 percent of his first checks to save for independent housing and ultimately was able to move in March.”

A 20-year-old woman who had left foster care discovered that her shelter bicycle created a healthier lifestyle. With renewed confidence, she’s building an independent life without shelter support.

Go early Saturday, stay late, and buy often from Needs and Wishes at the South Bay Community Center. The treasures you purchase will be golden for someone who needs you.

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