Spirit of Giving Luncheon in Oxford celebrates 25 years
● By Steven Hoffman
Community leaders in Oxford came together at the Penn's Grove Middle School on Monday for the 25th annual Spirit of Giving Luncheon.
“Today, we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King,” said Jim McLeod, one of the Spirit of Giving Luncheon committee members. “It's only fitting that we have the Spirit of Giving Luncheon on his birthday.”
McLeod explained that from its inception, the purpose of the Spirit of Giving Luncheon has been to raise money for the Neighborhood Services Center. McLeod and his wife, Mary, were part of the group that included community leaders and business people who came up with the idea of holding a luncheon as a way to raise funds for the Neighborhood Services Center, the Oxford non-profit that helps less fortunate families in southern Chester County. The luncheon was initially held around Christmas—a time of particular need in the community.
Through the years, the Spirit of Giving Luncheon has continued to evolve. In 2008, the Oxford Area School District joined as a partner in the event, and began hosting the luncheon on the school campus.
“When the school district got involved it really became a community event,” McLeod explained. The event was moved to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as well, linking the spirit of the event with the spirit of Dr. King's life and legacy.
Dr. Martin Hudacs, a retired superintendent of the Solanco School District, served as the guest speaker at this year's luncheon. Hudacs retired in June 2014 after a 39-year career in education, including seven years as the superintendent of the Solanco School District. The Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials (PASBO) recruited Hudacs and several retired superintends to provide local school leaders throughout the state with professional development and advocacy related to school funding. He also currently serves as the board president of Leadership Lancaster, an organization whose mission is to develop outstanding community leadership to support the needs of Lancaster County.
Hudacs' speech focused on giving back to the community. He quoted Dr. King who once said, “Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'what are you doing for others?'”
Hudacs said that it's important for community leaders to collaborate and make connections so that the entire community is strengthened. Whereas one individual or one organization might not be able to solve a problem, individuals and groups working together can often make a difference in the community.
McLeod thanked the individuals and groups involved with making the Spirit of Giving Luncheon a success. Just a few of the collaborators include the Penn's Grove Middle School Helping Hands organization; the Oxford Area High School Rotary Interact Club; Alison Weir, the director of food services, Grace Chamberlain Montgomery, the Penn's Grove cafeteria supervisor, as well as many volunteers who helped prepare the meals.
There were numerous distinguished guests at the luncheon, including State Rep. John Lawrence, County Commissioner Terence Farrell, and Oxford Area School District Superintendent David Woods.
Hudacs observed that everyone who came out to the Spirit of Giving Luncheon was making a statement to the Neighborhood Services Center that the work that the organization does is important.
The Neighborhood Services Center has been serving the community since 1971.
Cheryl McConnell, the executive director of Neighborhood Services Center, said that they are able to provide help to 775 families in the community each month. At Christmas, they were able to provide gifts to 220 children.
Jim Saltysiak, a member of the Neighborhood Services Center's Board of Directors, said that the Spirit of Giving Luncheon continues to be one of the largest fundraisers for Neighborhood Services Center each year.
Farrell thanked all the people who give of themselves to make the community a better place.
When talking about the importance of community service, McLeod quoted boxing great Muhammad Ali, who once said that, “the service you do for others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.”
“This is a beautiful community event, and I always leave feeling inspired and reinvigorated,” McLeod said.