Recently, the Crook County Foundation was approached to take on the fiscal sponsorship role of the Crook County Holiday Partnership. This longstanding program has been supporting those in need in Crook County for nearly 30 years. This year, after many successful years of coordination, the Crook County Health Department had to make the difficult decision to pass the program over to another entity. As we all know, the global COVID-19 pandemic has increased the workload for those in the medical field exponentially. Our local health department has felt that increase and are working diligently to keep our community safe while case numbers continue to rise heading into flu and cold season. Due to this, they understandably are unable to put the same time and energy into the program.
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 additional meals 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.
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 hand 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. The most fun part (well to me anyway) is the shopping! Then you bring the tag and the gifts back to the tree location to check them in by December 15th.
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 2020 Drive Thru pick up of food and gifts.
The Crook County Foundation is grateful for the opportunity to pick up a well-oiled machine, that has had tremendous leadership for decades, to ensure the support is there for our community members in need. We thank the Crook County Health Department staff for the smooth transition and assistance in answering all our questions so we can provide the same high level of service to residents again this year.
Thank you to Crook County and the staff at the Fairgrounds for supporting the event and for the use of Carey Foster Hall. For all the individuals who volunteer, who are far too many to list in this column, we appreciate every hour of your time! The businesses who host boxes and tree, encourage clients and customers to give, fulfill name tags yourself, and promote the program – we couldn’t do this without you! And lastly, the community. 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 CCHolidayPartnership@gmail.com or by calling 541-362-1976. Please like us on Facebook to get the latest news – www.Facebook.com/CCHolidayPartnership.