The Crowd: Positive SPIN for the holiday

The blessing of the Christmas season is surely the spirit of giving. There are so many people in need of basic elements of survival: food, clothing, shelter and an intangible element that is in a real sense just as vital — hope.

Without hope for better times, the soul is wounded. Knowing that somebody cares, can in and of itself, send that ounce of hope that goes side by side with a warm meal, or a bed in which to sleep even if it is among a sea of cots and bunks providing shelter.

Recently Bette and Wylie Aitken of Newport Beach and Anaheim Hills threw a little holiday gathering for a few hundred of their pals. Life has been good to them. Success has smiled brightly on their shoulders.

They are a long married, hard working and dedicated couple who now enjoy — and share — the blessings life has bestowed upon them.

Entrance to their holiday party required that guests bring a coat to be donated to a homeless person. The coat didn't have to be new, just clean and warm. They will all be handed out to people living on the street. That's the spirit of Christmas in action.

In Costa Mesa, Serving People In Need (SPIN) is in serious overdrive, collecting everything possible in order to send hope and charity to countless families that their donors support— one on one — at Christmas time. SPIN sponsors a program known as "Adopt A Family" for the holidays that literally makes people believe that there is a Santa Claus, no questions asked.

It's not just about the kids, although there are plenty of them that SPIN refuses to leave behind. It's also about helping the parents, giving them the opportunity to provide some holiday happiness in often desperate times. The act of giving becomes life enhancing, sometimes life changing.

The stories are many, and this is essential.

Consider the plight of one married man with young children who lost his job, then his home, then his wife and kids who could not take the pressure any longer. Out of work for more than a year, he found his way to SPIN. Alcohol and drugs had taken over his life adding to the crisis.

The first task was to get this man help. He wanted it. He needed it. He took it seriously. Next, a place to live. SPIN arranged that, covering costs for months thanks to generous donor support.

Then there was job counseling in order to get him back on his feet

This story has the proverbial happy ending. The man found work. He got his family back, he stayed off alcohol and today, he is helping to rescue others suffering in the same losing spiral.

SPIN has been saving lives for several decades, one person, one family at a time. They work magic at holidays and all year long. Hunger does not vanish on Christmas Day, after all.

Jean Wegener, executive director of SPIN, shares that 91 cents of every donated dollar goes into aid for O.C.'s working poor and homeless needing help.

"Every dollar counts," she says, adding, "We would like to adopt every family in this community that needs our help, and thanks to the generosity of those who can give, we can work Christmas miracles now and all year long when nobody is paying attention."

To support SPIN and the families they assist, please call (714) 751-1101 or go to

THE CROWD runs Thursdays and Saturdays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

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