Family gives back to needy, honors loved one through South Jersey program

MEDFORD, N.J. (WPVI) -- More than a hundred volunteers spent Wednesday morning wrapping presents for needy, local families at a church in Medford, New Jersey, during an annual wrapping party for Spirit of the Holidays.

Lisa O'Neill and her family started the program in their home in 1999 in honor of her brother Kevin Todd, who died from complications from AIDS.

"His biggest fear was he would be forgotten. I promised him we would not forget him, and we would find some way to honor his memory," said O'Neill.

They started with helping one family.

"It was eight members of this family, 24 gifts, one food basket. Then the next year she said the father died, they still need some help, and by the way there's another family. My husband and I looked at each other, and we were like, 'This is how we should honor Kev's memory,' " said O'Neill.

Not only have the number of families they are assisting increased, so has the number of volunteers.

"Not only are they impacted by HIV or AIDS, they are living well below the poverty level," said O'Neill.

The O'Neills are provided a list of families from local healthcare providers.

On Wednesday, volunteers from local schools and the community helped wrapped more than 1,400 new gifts and 95 food boxes.

Pastor Harry Thomas says he is proud to open his church's doors for the event. He backed the group even at a time when people were just beginning to learn about HIV and AIDS.

"It's our privilege. Yes, there was a time when people were hands off for people who have HIV or AIDS. we don't believes that's our faith or the kind of way we should approach things. Lisa had this vision, and we said let's go for it," said Pastor Thomas.

Kevin Todd's niece tells us she knows her uncle would be proud.

"I think he'd feel so happy and so grateful, and I think he'd be so proud of my mom," said Sarah O'Neill, organizer.
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