When Kevin Todd was dying of AIDS in 1997, he feared being forgotten.
Thanks to his sister Lisa O'Neill, a bunch of volunteers, and a whole lot of gift paper, there's not much chance of that.
"This is wrap day," O'Neill said Tuesday, welcoming me into the festive sanctuary of Come Alive Church in Medford.
About 100 church members and Lenape Regional High School students were preparing presents for delivery to 77 families affected by AIDS in Burlington, Camden, and Gloucester Counties.
Spirit of the Holidays, the nonprofit O'Neill founded and leads, sponsors the effort in remembrance of her older brother. A popular 1975 Lenape graduate, he was 40 when he died.
Described by his sister as "the first person out on the dance floor," Todd worked as a bartender in South Jersey restaurants and did occasional extra work in movies, including Philadelphia.
"Kev was the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back," said O'Neill, 51, a mother of three who lives in Shamong Township.
The organization got its start with a single gift basket for a family whose father was dying of AIDS in 1999.
"We decided the way we should remember Kev was by helping people who are suffering the way he did," O'Neill said. "Every penny that we take in goes right back to the families. No one here takes a salary. We're all volunteers."
She and her husband, Tom, ran the program out of their home for a couple of years before moving it to their church. Come Alive is a nondenominational congregation.
"Lisa and Tom are just amazing people," said the Rev. Harry Thomas, who founded Come Alive about 30 years ago and who knew Todd well.
"He had a great heart," Thomas said. "It was just a privilege to know him. And it's a privilege to help Spirit of the Holidays give people a special day."
Said Tom O'Neill, 53: "Kevin was very compassionate, like my wife, Lisa. He was the type of a guy who would bring a smile to your face and warm your heart, and I hope these gifts do the same for these families."
The gift recipients are matched with Spirit of the Holidays by social workers at Cooper University Hospital, the Camden Area Health Education Center, and Garden State Infectious Diseases Associates.
The recipients submit a wish list of three gifts for each family member; 10 volunteers began shopping on Black Friday.
"It makes my Christmas. It makes my holiday," said Lori Iwanowski, 52, of Tabernacle, a church member wearing an elf hat and a big smile.
"Every family is shopped for separately. That's how much heart is in these packages," she said, noting that this year, the recipients will include "15 single people who have nobody."
Hundreds of brand-new toys, clothes, home-baked goodies and other foodstuffs got wrapped and boxed Tuesday, and delivered Wednesday, by people such as Marisa Montgomery and Ryan Weaver.
Lenape seniors from Mount Laurel, the two took a break from wrapping to talk about their school's commitment. Through the annual Todd Memorial AIDS Walk and other efforts, Lenape students raised $7,000 for Spirit of the Holidays this year.
"It's to give back to people who need it more than I do," Weaver, 18, said.
Added Montgomery, "The families we help are under the poverty level. They're suffering so badly.
"And it's nice that Santa can come because of us."
O'Neill was in constant motion on Wrap Day, moving from table to table ("we have a system") where each family's gifts where carefully boxed, wrapped, and labeled.
Although her organization has grown, she said, the personal connection remains.
"Because of my brother, I know what our families are going through. They're living longer with HIV, but it's not pretty.
"Kev would be doing this in a heartbeat if he were here. It's what he would want us to do. It's what God wants us to do."