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Multiple organizations, businesses and individuals are teaming up as part of the Holiday Partnership

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Left to right, Hayden, Hailey and Hunter Benson helped hand out food during distribution day last year.

The 2017 holiday season will launch in Crook County this coming Thanksgiving weekend, and Holiday Partnership organizers are ready to hit the ground running.

The annual partnership, organized by community leaders and fueled by a host of volunteers throughout the community, seeks to help people enjoy the holidays who might otherwise lack the resources to do so.

"Each year in Crook County, volunteers come together to collect food and gifts," said event co-organizer Vicky Ryan, who serves as the county's emergency preparedness coordinator. The event has historically benefited children but is expanding to assist senior citizens as well as the homeless in order to address the neediest of Crook County's population.

The partnership provides income-eligible families and individuals food boxes with holiday meal staples as well as toys and bicycles for children, clothing and even pet food to support orphaned animals. People are also welcome to donate supplies to senior citizens that include hygiene items, warm clothing and puzzles.

The 2017 Holiday Partnership will launch with a new event, a fundraiser that is intended to bolster monetary donations in particular. The community reception will take place on Monday, Dec. 4 at Meadow Lakes Restaurant's banquet room, beginning at 4:30 p.m.

"We will be serving appetizers and having a silent auction and raffle," Ryan said. "We will have tags on giving trees and will have staff who can answer any questions that people have about Holiday Partnership, and we will be handing out literature."

Ryan said that monetary donations help partnership leaders pay for the turkey and ham that goes into the food boxes and help volunteers fulfill any giving tree tags that are left over as the effort concludes.

"Last year, we ran out of food, and we had to go purchase more canned goods so that we could fulfill the need for all of the food boxes," Ryan added.

The need for the partnership effort continues to grow, according to Ryan, heightening the need for an early fundraiser and boost in monetary donations.

"The application process is already fully under way," she said. "DHS (Department of Human Services) sent out over 2,500 applications to individuals and families in the community who are income eligible."

The information from returned applications is then entered into a database where it is organized for future distribution of food and gifts. Recipients are then sent a postcard that they are asked to return to volunteers when they pick up or are delivered their holiday items.

The date of the fundraiser coincides with the day that partnership leaders and volunteers move into their workshop in Carey Foster Hall. Gift wrapping starts on Dec. 6 with that effort and others continuing until Distribution Day on Dec. 21.

"It starts out a little bit slower," Ryan said of the partnership workload, but by the week of Dec. 10-16, "it really ramps up, and we start separating all of the donations and wrapped gifts."

Meanwhile, volunteers routinely go out into the community to collect gifts from the Toys for Tots boxes and purchase other gifts to fulfill giving tree tags.

The deadline to donate to Holiday Partnership is Dec. 18, and during that week, volunteers stay very active, ensuring that there is enough food and gifts to meet all of the need.

"From Dec. 10 to Dec. 20, it is nonstop," Ryan remarked.

On Distribution Day, multiple agencies and volunteers converge on Carey Foster Hall and other nearby buildings to help complete the massive task of distributing all of the donations. Crook County Health Department staff will be on hand as will members of local church youth groups and personnel from Crook County Search and Rescue who will serve as runners on site and delivery persons for those who can't make it down to the pick-up site.

While the Holiday Partnership is limited to a finite period of time each year, Ryan points out that help for local applicants does not end after the holidays.

"We use these applications for future outreach," she said.

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