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Kiwanis Club's annual gift-giving program served over 500 kids last Christmas

COURTESY KIM SCHMITH - Volunteers are wrapping gifts at the fairgrounds this year. Wrapping is open to anyone for drop-in hours 
from 4 to 8:30p.m. Monday through Thursday at the fairgrounds., Madras Pioneer - News Toy donations and gift wrapping is in full swing at the fairgrounds, wrapping open to public Operation Rudolph full steam ahead wrapping presents

Operation Rudolph is Madras Kiwanis's largest and most important volunteer program for at-risk youth who live in poverty. We serve all of Jefferson County. We gather gifts through donations of money to purchase gifts, accept donated gifts and then local volunteers wrap gifts which Kiwanis delivers to families. We work with many programs locally and also have the support of Toys4Tots.

We serve an average of 200 families, which means we are creating Christmas Joy for 450-600 children annually. We serve the neediest children of Jefferson County and work with the Department of Human Services to ensure the most appropriate children are served and that these families are provided support through one entity. This helps ensure as many families are supported as possible, and families are served only once.

Operation Rudolph is made possible by all the donations and volunteers from our community. Last year, over 200 community members donated 1,600 total hours of time wrapping and delivering presents. On top of that, the Jefferson County Fair donates use of a large building for three weeks each year to house our volunteers — without which this operation would not be possible.

We work hard to get every child something they can do on their own and something they can used to romp and run outside, because we understand from Thanksgiving through New Year's has the highest rates of domestic violence, child abuse, and family strife in general. It's an expensive time of the year with high expectations. Volunteers wrap up every specifically chosen gift and Kiwanians deliver the sack of gifts on the last day of school before winter break. We do this so their family adults (often single moms, grandparents, foster parents, aunts who have their own children and are also taking care of a relative's children) can take a breather and put money towards utilities, rent and other household expenses.

Why can we provide so much? Because of amazing community support to a program that has been going for over two decades, by Kiwanis, which is a youth focused community group.

Our largest and greatest support of student leaders is the Key Club. They spend hours and hours wrapping gifts, organizing and mentoring younger students. I also bring in NHS, Leadership, the girls basketball team and more from our high school clubs. They serve as leaders/mentors to the younger kids and take on an amazing workload and ownership of getting appropriate gifts to high schoolers, which is the hardest group to provide wanted gifts for. We are generally the only group who serves foster kids and high school age kids.

Over the years Operation Rudolph has brought in adult volunteers who now return yearly to support the program, and has developed partnerships with outside of school student groups. Think 4-H groups, dance and cheer clubs and more. There have also been adult groups that have taken "ownership" of specific gifts and have therefore taken pressure off the program to find these gifts and raise the money to purchase them. Book clubs are now getting us books every year, a family-focused agency makes sure we have enough stuffed animals for every child to receive one. It is our community partnerships that have kept Operation Rudolph alive and has also strengthened and helped it to flourish.

Volunteers are always welcome. If you individually want to wrap, or you belong to a group who is interested in wrapping contact Kim Schmith to get your group on the schedule. Small groups and individuals can fit in most days while a larger group will need to be scheduled in advance.

If you would like to donate or volunteer, please contact Kim Schmith at (541)980-6371. Please call or text before dropping by as hours may change. Volunteering will be at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds.

Community wrapping times are drop-in during the following hours:

Dec. 1 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Dec. 6 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m, Dec. 7 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m, Dec. 8 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m, Dec. 10 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m, Dec. 12 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., Dec. 13 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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