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The goal is to provide a nutritious and complete holiday meal, with enough ingredients to supply a meal for the whole family receiving it

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Brandi EbnerLast year, the Crook County Foundation took over the ownership and leadership of the Crook County Holiday Partnership program. This longstanding program has been supporting those in need in Crook County for over 30 years. We are excited to continue this outstanding tradition and look forward to expanding the program in the future.

When people think of the Holiday Partnership, they may not realize the incredible amount of time and number of volunteers it takes to coordinate it each year. Starting in the fall, the planning team must begin organizing the key components, including which businesses are hosting food drives or collecting Toys for Tots, where will Trees of Joy be hosted, and who is willing to take a group of names or multiple families to fulfil their gift wishes.

Then there is the planning of the food boxes themselves. The goal is to provide a nutritious and complete holiday meal, with enough ingredients to supply a meal for the whole family receiving it. This takes a considerable amount of coordination and support from our local grocery stores! For years, businesses have provided discounted purchase options for the large orders needed, which includes perishable items that cannot arrive until late in December right before distribution. This year is even more of a challenge as supply chains are delayed and no local store has been able to guarantee our needed shipments. We greatly appreciate the work put in by Prineville Grocery Outlet and Erickson's Thriftway to ensure the holiday meal necessities will be here in time.

The Trees of Joy are quite a procedure as well. An application process welcomes anyone in Crook County who is eligible as a low-income resident to apply. Each application then needs verified for accuracy. Volunteers then create a tag for each individual who has asked for gifts, pre-allocate the requests that we have for group fulfillment, and hand place the remaining tags on the trees which are displayed across the county. Community members can go into these businesses and select as many tags as they want to fill. Then you bring the tag and the gifts back to the tree location to check them in by Dec. 15. We are encouraging people to shop early this year due to the same supply chain issues that are affecting food purchases. It might be a bit harder to find the perfect gifts, so plan to pick up a tag Thanksgiving weekend if you can.

Volunteers then collect the food, toys, gifts, and clothing from drop locations in mid-December, gathering at Carey Foster Hall, and begin the process of sorting by family, verifying that the gifts fit the requests, and filling the food boxes. In traditional years, it takes dozens of volunteers many days to wrap each gift, but due to COVID restrictions, we are unable to have that number of people in close proximity, so gifts will go out in concealing bags this year. At the same time, other volunteers reach out to recipients to alert them to the day and time they can do our 2021 Drive Thru pick up of food and gifts.

The Crook County Foundation is grateful for the outstanding support of our community to make this program happen each year. Over a dozen businesses and organizations stepped up in October to host food drives and challenge each other to see who can gather the most items. We also offer a huge thank you to the Crook County Fairgrounds and OSU Extension Office for the use of buildings in December to do the sorting and packaging.

And last, but not least, thank you to all the individuals who volunteer (far too many to list in this column) we appreciate every hour of your time! The businesses who host boxes and trees, encourage clients and customers to give, fulfill name tags yourself, and promote the program — we couldn't do this without you! A program of this magnitude, ran completely by volunteers, is spectacular. However, those who step up and take a tag or put a can of food into a food drive box are who make this all possible. Prineville and Crook County are known to rally behind our residents, and this is another prime example of that strength and support. Every person deserves Christmas spirit, and we are honored to help make that possible this year.

If you would like to volunteer, donate, or apply, please visit our new website www.CCHolidayPartnership.com. You can also reach our team at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling 541-362-1976. Please like us on Facebook to get the latest news — www.Facebook.com/CCHolidayPartnership.


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