June 24, 2020 — The new community support effort known as “Christmas in June” has distributed more than $46,000 to nearly 100 residents of Florence. The program was the brainchild of retiree Sam Spayd, a pilot and local veterans advocate who was concerned with the negative financial impact of COVID-19 closings and lay-offs, which had hurt many residents of Florence.
Spayd started out with $10,000 and has enlisted a small group of volunteers to staff donation kettles at local stores. Money is now being distributed in the form of a grant through the local program, with no repayment required.
“Our goal is to help more than 100 people,” said Spayd. “Criteria for receiving funds is that a recipient must prove Florence residency and must have lost their job as a result of COVID-19.”
There is an interview process to qualify for a grant, with those who qualify receiving a check for $500 on the spot. Their only “repayment” requirement is volunteering to ring the bell for 10 hours.
Spayd and his volunteers have worked two-hour shifts six days a week, between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. at Florence collection locations since June 1.
“That’s a total of 40 hours a day of volunteer time, or almost 750 hours so far — and we have about a week to go,” said Spayd. “Today (June 24), the men and women from Coast Guard Station Siuslaw River will man the locations all day. They want to repay the citizens of Florence who helped them with food and finances last year during the federal government shutdown.”
BMCS Jay Nilles is Officer in Charge at Station Siuslaw and his thoughts regarding the Christmas in June collection are simple: It’s a way of showing solidarity with a community that strongly supported local Coast Guard members during the government shutdown of 2017.
“Members of the Station Siuslaw River crew are honored to participate by volunteering their liberty time to support the fine Coast Guard City of Florence,” Nilles said. “Our local community has supported our unit, assisted us in carrying out honoring our past in military remembrance events.
The City of Florence became a Coast Guard City in 2017 after local residents stepped up to submit an application the US Coast Guard.
According to Nilles, “Our active-duty members not only serve here, but have spouses and children involved in the community. We take pride in supporting our community relations so our Coast Guard City can prosper and grow. The City of Florence is a permanent home for some, and temporary for others, but that being said, we are a community. And supporting one another to ensure we are all able to succeed, and not suffer, is one of the founding principles of a community.”
Coast Guard members will volunteer at sites around town throughout the day Wednesday.
There is still time for the community to contribute to Christmas in June program by making a financial donation directly to Spayd or by volunteering to help at one of the collection stations located at Bi-Mart, Safeway, Grocery Outlet and Fred Meyer.
Spayd said he is appreciative of the money donated thus far but hopes to help even more people if the generosity of residents continues.
“Our goal is to raise $100,000 during the month of June. We will be distributing checks for $500 to deserving individuals who have had their income drastically reduced, some to zero,” said Spayd. “By attaining our goal, we will be able to help 200 people in the City of Florence. This will be a tremendous boost to our economy and help get Florence back to the wonderful place we all know and love.”
For more information or to volunteer, call Spayd at 541-991-6139.