When Richard Margetson and his business partner, Jerri Walsh, first started the Needs 'N Wishes holiday fundraiser in Los Osos in 2006, they knew they were onto something special.
The inaugural event, featuring a silent auction, raffles, a toy sale, food and drink, and live entertainment, netted nearly $20,000 in a single day. Every penny benefited the then Maxine Lewis Memorial Homeless Shelter in San Luis Obispo, which was facing financial challenges at the time.
"There was a real problem with keeping the shelter funded," Margetson told New Times. "We decided maybe we could do something in Los Osos here as a fundraiser. ... We thought let's see how it goes and see if we can pull this thing off."
The event, which immediately followed the Los Osos/Baywood Park Christmas Parade (and still does), wasn't just a huge hit in a small town without a ton of holiday activities. It showcased the Los Osos community's generosity on a whole new scale.
"We found out at that time that it was the second biggest fundraiser Los Osos ever put up," Margetson said.
Needs 'N Wishes only grew bigger and better in the years following. Now entering its 14th year—this year on Dec. 14 at the South Bay Community Center from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.—the event has generated more than $500,000 in total donations, which has all gone to local nonprofits serving the homeless, Margetson said.
"We kind of knew that it was going to work," Margetson said of the event and its longevity. "We just work annually to improve it."
Needs 'N Wishes is open to anyone in SLO County. Guests get the chance to bid on 15 to 20 tables' worth of silent auction items, with prizes ranging from "kitchen appliances, to gift certificates for restaurants and hotels, to oil changes, jewelry, all kinds of things," Margetson said. Adult and children's raffles are also featured, as well as a toy store, a bake sale, fresh food, snacks, and drinks, and live dance and music happening onstage throughout the day.
"It's free admission," Margetson noted. "We wanted to make sure that anybody could come. You can just come in and get a cup of coffee, sit down and watch the entertainment onstage, and just get in the spirit."
From the beginning, it was important to Margetson and Walsh—and other volunteers with the nonprofit People Helping People, which Margetson and Walsh are on the board of—that Needs 'N Wishes have no overhead and administrative expenses.
Everything that's donated goes directly to the charity recipients.
"We wanted to make sure that anybody who donated, that we got the biggest bang for their buck," Margetson said.
This year, the proceeds from Needs 'N Wishes will benefit three organizations: the 40 Prado Homeless Services Center, which replaced the Maxine Lewis shelter when it was completed last year; the SLO Noor Foundation, a nonprofit founded in 2011 by Dr. Ahmad Nooristani that provides free medical, dental, and vision care to uninsured adults; and South Bay Seniors-People Helping People, to support its portable shower project for the homeless.
The SLO Noor Foundation joined as recipients in the fundraiser about six years ago, Margetson said.
- Photos Courtesy Of Richard Margetson
- HOLIDAY SPIRIT A variety of community dance and music groups perform throughout the Needs 'N Wishes fundraiser.
"We love their premise of the doctors donating their time ... helping the uninsured and underinsured," he said. "A lot of those are your homeless population, or your people right on the brink."
Dr. Rupert Chowins, the eye clinic director at the SLO Noor Foundation, told New Times that the donations from Needs 'N Wishes over the years have "really allowed us to stay open." The event has generated funds to provide about $10 million of equivalent medical care at the Noor clinics.
"Without them, we'd really be limited on our service," Chowins said. "We do great work, but we struggle to find the funds. They have provided us with tremendous support. Richard Margetson and People Helping People are heroes to us."
If you're looking for somewhere wholesome to gift shop, to make your holiday donations, and to get in the giving spirit, Needs 'N Wishes offers the whole package.
"It's just wonderful, you know?" Margetson said. "So many people say it just makes their holiday season. That's what we wanted it to be." Δ
Assistant Editor Peter Johnson is feeling the holiday spirit. Reach him at [email protected].