Every holiday season, agencies and organizations in Crook County come together to partner and serve households in need during the holidays with food boxes and gifts.
The partnership provides support to seniors, children, veterans and families less fortunate in Crook County. Of the funds generated, 100% are used for gifts and food locally, and all the time is volunteer.
Vicky Ryan has been the project coordinator for Crook County Holiday Partnership for the past four years. With help from its volunteers, the program has doubled the volunteer support, and the donations have tripled in the past four years. Ryan said that the number of requests from those in need is up from last holiday season.
Vicki Rhoden is the administrative support for the Crook County Health Department, and she is Ryan's right hand during this busy season. She provides the data entry and many other important tasks during the stretch between now and December 19.
"Behind the scenes, she does an incredible amount of work for us," Ryan said. "She takes all the applications from DHS when they are returned, and she enters them into a database. She creates the tags, she manages all of the lists and all of the master books."
There are 12 volunteers on the planning committee for the Holiday Partnership. They begin their planning in July.
"It takes a village," Ryan said of the volunteers required to fill the food boxes, fill out tags, wrap gifts and do myriad other tasks.
"All the hours that are put into setting up, wrapping and putting food together, collecting toys and picking up gifts at the trees — it's all volunteer hours."
She added that all the toys, food, gifts and money is donated by local community organizations and individuals and stays in Crook County. They work closely with Department of Human Services, which sends out the initial applications to households in need. So far this season, 2,548 households have received applications, and more are anticipated to be handed out through the Crook County Health Department.
Local banks and other businesses sponsor Trees of Joy, which have gift tags for children, as well as senior and disabled citizens. Ryan said that they work closely with their community partners. Donations for food boxes are provided by a variety of organizations, groups and individuals. Various Crook County and city of Prineville departments engage in competitions to collect nonperishable food. They also work closely with programs like Shop With a Cop to ensure there isn't duplication.
"We are working with those organizations to make sure there is no duplication, and to make sure the families still get their food boxes," said Ryan.
She added that every household on the list gets a food box donated to them, with everything needed for a nice, hearty holiday meal. Ryan said that they buy turkeys, potatoes and other food as needed to add to the boxes with donated money. The nonperishable foods are also donated. They also use beef from the 10-17 Cattle Project. The Shiloh Ranch Cowboy Church in Powell Butte takes in retired rodeo cows and pastures and raises them. The resulting beef goes to Butcher Boys for packaging and is donated to projects such as the Holiday Partnership. Last year, they were able to add more than 3,000 pounds of ground beef to the food boxes. The packaging is also paid for this year by a local organization.
Among the names on the list, each youth under the age of 18, and seniors and disabled individuals, are eligible for gifts.
"That is where the tags come in for trees," explained Ryan.
Even though many of those on the list ask for specialty items or only list what they or their child needs, Ryan said that they make sure to give every child an age-appropriate toy, in addition to what they ask for. Many new and used bikes are donated from the community, including Bicycle Resource of Bend and Prineville Police Department — which donates bikes that have been collected throughout the year.
"I work with Bicycle Resource, and they refurbish the bikes for us," said Ryan. "They might not be new bikes, but they are in great shape. They clean them up; they put new tubes in them and new tires — or whatever they need."
There are many ways to help, even if it involves taking a tag off one of the trees.
"Even one tag puts us that much closer to our goal because nobody's tag goes left unfilled," she said.
On Dec. 9, wrapping stations open in Carey Foster Hall, and they move into the 4-H Clover Building — which is used for the food boxes. For the next week and a half, they will be wrapping gifts. Last year, they wrapped 3,000 gifts in their workshop. On Dec. 16, Ryan will collect all the tags that are not taken off the trees. She said cash donations make it possible to have volunteers shop for those tags, ensuring no tags go unfilled. They go through their master list, and ensure that every tag is accounted for.
In addition to the 3,000 gifts wrapped last year, there are several organizations that also wrap gifts, and many adopt entire families. They take care of the gifts, the wrapping and food boxes for these families. Ryan and her volunteers still keep them in their master list to account for them.
"The outpouring in this community is so incredible; it's so humbling," Ryan said. "I love living here and working with all of these folks."
For more information to volunteer, contact: Crook County Health Department, 375 NW Beaver St., Suite 100, Prineville, OR 97754
Vicki Ryan, Project Coordinator for Crook County Holiday Partnership: 541-323-2467
Vicki Rhoden, Project Support: 541-447-3260
The following locations include Toys 4 Tots Drop Box locations. Dates of collections begin Nov. 20 and go through December 16.
American Family Insurance, Associates Real Estate, Bi-mart, Chamber of Commerce, City of Prineville, Crestview Cable TV, Crook County Courthouse, Crook County Fire and Rescue (all three locations), Crook County Health Department, Coldwell Banker, Les Schwab Tire Store, McDonalds, Meadow Lakes Golf Club and Restaurant, Papa Murphy's Pizza, St. Charles Health System, Powell Butte Christian Church, Robberson Ford, Sons of Beer, Starbucks, US Bank, Crook County Library, Wells Fargo, Foundry Four Coffee Company.
Chase, Oregonians Credit Union, US Bank, Wells Fargo, First Interstate, St. Charles Health System, Sunrise Pool, Crook County Library, Associates Real Estate, Amerititle, Powell Butte Christian Church, Wild Rose Boutique, Vintage Cottage.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.