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Drop sites for food donations, giving trees can be found in many local businesses starting early next week along with other donation opportunities

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Volunteer Beth Jay helps keep Distribution Day organized during the 2017 Holiday Partnership. Last year, the partnership distributed nearly 900 food boxes and wrapped and gave away more than 7,500 gifts for local families facing financial struggles during the holiday season.

Many annual events signal the start of the holiday season in Prineville, and one of the biggest ones in the community is set to launch next week.

Starting Tuesday, Crook County Holiday Partnership will once again launch with food and gift collection sites opening at numerous businesses throughout town. People are invited to either drop off nonperishable food at the drop sites or bring them to the Crook County Health Department. Meanwhile, locals can find giving trees at multiple local businesses where they can choose a tag that includes the name of a local child and what they want for Christmas.

Coordinated this year by Vicky Ryan with the health department and Vickie Rhoden with Crook County Department of Human Services, Holiday Partnership supports households within Crook County that are less fortunate and who qualify based on income eligibility with food and gifts during the Christmas season. Gifts are distributed to children under the age of 18, seniors and disabled individuals, and food boxes are given to anyone who is eligible.

"Last year alone, we distributed nearly 900 food boxes, and our volunteers individually wrapped over 7,500 gifts," Ryan stated.

Rhoden said that people are welcome to purchase nonperishable foods and drop them off at any of the 25 sites around town or stop by the 13 giving tree locations, but the donation opportunities don't end there.

"If they want to just donate money, they can bring it in to the health department, or they can go to Mid Oregon Credit Union and donate it that way through Holiday Dough," she said.

Another opportunity to help financially support Holiday Partnership and its recipients comes Monday, Dec. 3 when leaders will host the second annual fundraiser and silent auction at Meadow Lakes Restaurant. Scheduled from 5 to 8 p.m., the event will feature door prizes, raffle prizes and giving trees with gift tags as well as a silent auction that concludes around 7:30 p.m.

"In 2017, we raised a profit of $2,500," Ryan recalls. "This year, we hope to double that as the need in our community continues to increase."

Meanwhile, Holiday Partnership organizers have issued a food collection challenge where multiple agencies throughout the community are invited to participate in a friendly competition to raise the most food for the partnership. The challenge begins Tuesday and concludes Dec. 17.

Recipients of food boxes and gifts are determined prior to the start of the annual event based on income eligibility and other factors.

"DHS sends out an application to income-qualified individuals who receive services from them," Rhoden explained. "They fill out the application, and then it comes to me, and we add it to the database."

As donations begin to mount, the partnership hunkers down at two adjacent locations and begins organizing and preparing the food and gifts for distribution a few days prior to Christmas.

"We start moving into Carey Foster Hall for the toys and gifts on Dec. 3, and volunteers start wrapping on Dec. 4," Rhoden said, adding that volunteers move into the local 4-H Clover Building the following week and start assembling food boxes.

"Distribution Day is Dec. 20," she added.

Though the partnership relies on the help of numerous local businesses as well as many government and civic organizations throughout Crook County, Rhoden stressed that volunteers are who make it possible to distribute all of the donations to the various destinations each holiday season.

"Most of it is done by the volunteers," she said. "The bulk of the gift wrapping, picking up gifts, the distribution — it is all done by volunteers."

Consequently, partnership leaders are always looking for more volunteers to help with the work.

So whether it's by volunteering or donating, Rhoden and other partnership leaders encourage people in the community to get involved in any way they can.

"This is a way for people who ordinarily would not be able to afford Christmas to be able to celebrate," she said.

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To learn more about how to donate to the Holiday Partnership or volunteer, call 541-447-3260.

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