Whether it’s the Christmas spirit, guilt or a reaction against consumerism, the winter holiday season often spurs citizens to real acts of generosity.

For Tanya Hubbard, an English teacher at Mount View High School and resident of Knox, it was the sight of people going to restaurants and shopping that prompted her to raise money for households that could not afford heating oil.

“It just seemed to make sense to me as I saw everyone going to restaurants and shopping that perhaps we could spend money in a more wise manner,” she said.

She knew there were plenty of people in her own community who were struggling. And as a survivor of cancer (twice) and heart failure, she knew what it felt like to need help.

“My community has rallied around me every time and has given me huge support,” she said. “So, it’s really a pay-it-forward kind of thing is how I look at it.”

Hubbard set a goal of raising $500 for 5 families and called it “5 for 5.”

After putting out a preliminary appeal on Facebook that brought around $800 in donations, she was encouraged by friends to take it further. She didn’t want to draw attention to herself, but agreed to an interview that led to an article in the MaineToday Media publications (Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel).

After that, the donations picked up. As of early January she had received $3,500 and had turned around most of that money in the form of $300 to $500 purchases of heating oil for seven families.

“Going to the mailbox has been the thrill of my life the past four weeks,” she said. “It’s just been so gratifying.”

According to an update posted on Hubbard’s Facebook page, the campaign had increased the total amount raised to $5,751 as of Jan. 16.

Hubbard said she didn’t know how to go about raising money in a way that seemed “professional” — creating an offshore account, say — so she simply asked donors to send checks made out to her. To her surprise, they did.

“The fact that a complete stranger would write a check to me … even though it’s a news article and I look like a real person,” she said. “I would support somebody too, but probably not if I didn’t know them. So, I’ve been very flattered by the fact that people out there are so willing to give their money.”

Donations came from as far away as New Mexico, Colorado and California.

“Everybody seems to know somebody. You know, that sixth degree of something, or whatever they call it. The seven degrees of Kevin Bacon,” she said laughing.

The next step has been to try to get her students involved and thinking about where they spend their money.

“I won’t say I’m laying a big guilt trip on them, but a bit of a guilt trip about: try to just think about responsibility,” she said.

Hubbard said many of her students work part-time jobs, and some contribute toward household expenses. “So, I don’t think it will be a hard sell,” she said. “I don’t want to force it on kids, but it’s my never-ending quest to try to help them become more responsible adults.”

Donations can be sent to Tanya Hubbard, 54 Aborn Hill Road, Knox ME 04986. For more information, she can be contacted via email at tanya_hubbard123@yahoo.com.