Three large donations and hundreds upon hundreds of smaller ones helped the Share the Spirit campaign live up to its name during the 2012 holiday season.

The Share the Spirit fundraising effort, sponsored by the Bay Area News Group and administered by the Volunteer Center of the East Bay, raised $186,895 from 798 donations, up from $153,335 and 694 donations in 2011.

The campaign benefits 32 nonprofit agencies in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

There were three donations of $25,000 -- from the Lesher Foundation, the estate of Ebbe Hygum and from an anonymous foundation.

More than 52,000 individuals and families benefitted from the outpouring of generosity, including:

  • Valeria Lugo, a 4-year-old Oakley girl, whose family used a gift card provided by her preschool to purchase a Christmas tree they wouldn't otherwise have been able to afford.

  • Hope 4 the Heart, a Hayward-area nonprofit that provides food and household items to charities that serve thousands of needy East Bay families.

  • Pittsburg's Le'Victoria Thomas, 24, homeless as recently as last summer, who received seven presents to help appoint her studio apartment.

    Among the noteworthy contributors was a group of employees from the Lawrence Berkeley Lab, who made a contribution rather than hold a gift exchange; a group of young women from the senior class at Clayton Valley High; and people wishing to do something good for their community in the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

    For the first time, Share the Spirit accepted online donations in 2012 -- a total of $15,560 was collected from 79 online donors.

    Though the Share the Spirit campaign has concluded, the Volunteer Center of the East Bay is still accepting donations. If you would like to donate, contact the Volunteer Center at 700 Ygnacio Valley Road, Suite 140, Walnut Creek, CA, 925-472-5760.

    Contact Gary Peterson at 925-952-5053. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/garyscribe.