The Molalla community didn't receive expected Thanksgiving meals from Turkey Bucks donations, but Safeway is attempting to make up for it.

PHOTO COURTESY OF SUPER SAFEWAY - After Molalla's Turkey Bucks mishap last month, the Safeway Foundation has given Molalla Service Center $10,000 and promised that all Santa Bucks will go directly to the center.

As they had in the past, the Molalla Service Center was expecting to receive Thanksgiving meals for their families from Safeway's Turkey Bucks campaign, but when Thanksgiving drew near, no meals were delivered.

Safeway's Turkey and Santa Bucks programs turn customer donations into holiday deli meals for families in need. Prior to this year, all meals were shipped to Molalla's Safeway in the exact amount that was donated at that store, according to Jill McGinnis, Safeway's director of communications and public affairs.

This year, families in Molalla raised close to $10,000 through purchasing Turkey Bucks, which would have amounted to 191 dinners, according to Rise Estergreen, director of the Molalla Service Center. So in the past, those meals would have been sent to the store, and volunteers would have delivered them to families. But it didn't happen this year.

Instead, Safeway made the decision to distribute all meals to the Oregon Food Bank for the purpose of food safety and quality.

"All stores were encouraged to have their local food pantries work with their nearest food bank affiliate to fulfill their needs," McGinnis said.

But as Turkey Bucks donations were rolling in, Molalla Safeway employees told community members that those donations would stay in Molalla as they have in the past, according to Estergreen.

"Because of a breakdown in communication, the Molalla Service Center understood that they would be receiving all of the meals," McGinnis said. "We felt terrible and wanted to make it right. The customers and community in Molalla are so important to the employees of the Molalla Safeway."

So the Safeway Foundation gave the Molalla Service Center $10,000.

"[McGinnis] said she felt really really bad about what happened in this small community and Molalla not receiving anything, so she asked me if I would like to receive $10,000 from their foundation, from Safeway Foundation," Estergreen said. "And I said 'Yes, absolutely.' I was floored basically because I wasn't expecting that."

In addition to the monetary donation, Safeway also made an exception to allow all Santa Bucks donations to go directly to the Molalla Service Center for this year.

"From the minute they started selling the Santa Dollars to when they stop selling Santa Dollars, we'll receive all of those meals at the Molalla Service Center," Estergreen said. "So, it stays local this year. The Santa Dollars will stay local."

But Estergreen expressed concern that community members may not buy the Santa Bucks since she heard that people have been boycotting Molalla Safeway and shopping in Oregon City or Woodburn instead. But she fended for the store.

"We work with Safeway here in Molalla every week," Estergreen said. "I work with them every week, and I only see good coming out of it. I don't see anything negative."

McGinnis expressed understanding about the community's concerns and invited community members to donate with confidence.

"I would like to encourage all Molalla residents to rest assured that their generous donations will stay in Molalla this holiday and therefore, in order to help those around them in need, to please donate," McGinnis said.

Despite the situation, the families that Molalla Service Center helps still received food for Thanksgiving.

"Thanksgiving is over. There's nothing I can do about that," Estergreen said. "But no one went without food. It might not have been a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, but we were open on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, for people to come in and get a food box. It wasn't a traditional turkey and everything, but it was food."

So, Estergreen is looking ahead and choosing not to hold any grudges over the mishap.

"I'm going to not lay blame on anybody," Estergreen said. "It's what happened. There's nothing we can do about it except learn from it and make sure that next year is better."

Kristen Wohlers
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