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About 350 Jefferson County kids get Christmas presents from Kiwanis community project

FILE PHOTO - Students decorate gift box receptacles in preparation for last year's Operation Rudolph. The pandemic has not stopped the community effort this holiday season. Donation boxes will be put in local businesses in late November.

It might be a COVID Christmas, but that won't stop Operation Rudolph from taking flight in 2020.

The community effort has started gearing up to serve the lowest-income youth and families of Jefferson County communities during the Christmas season.

While the process will be more intricate this year and isn't completely clear, what is clear is the need.

"I am really worried about Christmas for the struggling families in our community," said Kim Schmith, Kiwanis board member and Operation Rudolph coordinator. "Christmas should be a time of joy and wonderment, not despair, and I know the people who have a bit extra to give, will. That is who we are as a community."

Oregon Department of Human Services Self Sufficiency and Child Welfare Programs provides Operation Rudolph with the names, ages and genders of family members. The department has the ability to check for any duplications of names and addresses, allowing for more families to be served and people donating to know their gifts of toys, time or financial support is benefitting many different people in the communities.

Schmith said the families they serve are on fixed, very low incomes and in the greatest need. They expect to support about 350 kids this holiday season.

"Some of these families will be struggling to eat, let alone pay their utilities. Without the kindness and compassion of the community, the children in these families would be experiencing a bleak and bare Christmas," she said. "The hardest is when a family asks for warm clothing and sleeping bags on their toy list as this means they are struggling to make ends meet, let alone have a merry Christmas, and I love knowing that Operation Rudolph will make a difference in their lives."

The Madras Kiwanis Club oversees the program in collaboration with Toys for Tots.

Donation gift box receptacles will be placed in some businesses in the community before Thanksgiving, while others will be placed Nov. 30. Collection boxes will be at Mid Oregon Credit Union, Les Schwab Tires, Columbia Bank, Bi-Mart and other local places for people to donate gifts, wrapping paper and make donations.

Kiwanis is asking people to consider donating to Operation Rudolph by writing a check to Kiwanis, a nonprofit organization. All donations will be used to support local families in need.

Schmith is also asking business people if they would like to sponsor a family by purchasing and wrapping gifts for their chosen family. Operation Rudolph would support the business and have gifts available if needed.

COVID-19-safe protocols are being put in place to modify how gifts are wrapped since they are normally done in a crowded, busy room. This year, times will be reserved for families or small groups to wrap gifts, with arrangements being made for families to take gifts home to wrap and then return at a scheduled time.

Drop-in gift-wrapping events are planned for 10 a.m. to noon Wednesday, Dec. 2 and 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 8 at the fairgrounds kitchen by the arena.

Schmith is expecting to work with some of the 4-H groups for gift wrapping, and the Madras Swim Team has offered to wrap gifts. Any individuals or groups, including families and businesses, that would like to be a part of gift wrapping should contact Schmith.

"Our community really comes together for those in need. We could not make such a difference without everyone helping out where they can, from the fairgrounds creating space for us to wrap, to businesses putting out gift box receptacles, people donating gifts and those wrapping," Schmith said. "People are incredibly generous to those in need."


Operation Rudolph

To donate, send checks to: PO Box 65, Madras, OR 97741

To help wrap or donate gifts, contact: Operation Rudolph Coordinator Kim Schmith, 541-980-7631

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