Christmas being a season of charity, individuals and organizations throughout the Columbia Basin are collecting donations to help their less-fortunate neighbors.
For toy drives and food drives and mitten trees and coat collection, this is Big Week, when donations are being collected for distribution. Donations of toys, food and money are being accepted through the end of the week.
People who don't quite get that donation made by the end of the week shouldn't give up, however. The food banks will still need support in January -- and for that matter in July, Moses Lake Food Bank Operations Manager Peny Archer said.
For Christmas, the Moses Lake Food Bank is sponsoring Operation Friendship, a toy drive for children ages 12 and younger. People are being asked to purchase toys, which can be dropped off at the food bank, 1075 West Marina Dr. Food bank organizers also are taking monetary donations for toys, and all money raised goes for toys, Archer said. "This is 100 percent about the toys and the kids," she said. Any checks should be payable to the food bank, marked for the toy drive, and can be mailed to P.O. Box 683, Moses Lake, 98837.
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Toys should be unwrapped, Archer said, and people should pick toys in the $10 to $20 range. Volunteers will be at the food bank on Friday, when it's normally closed, and can take donations, Archer said. A number of community groups, from the Unchained Brotherhood to the walleye fishermen's club, are conducting toy and food drives already, she said.
The toys will be distributed from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at the food bank, and Santa will be on hand for pictures, Archer said.
The Ephrata Food Bank will be distributing toys and baskets Saturday, director Mike Donovan said. Donations can be dropped off at the food bank from 2 to 4 p.m. Monday or Thursday, and churches, schools and community groups are working on food and toy drives where people can contribute as well, he said.
The food bank is looking for donations of new and age-appropriate toys, Donovan said. And if people are hesitating over what to buy teens, it's OK -- Ephrata High School has got that.
The high school kids conduct their own fund drive and use the proceeds to buy gifts for their peers, ASB adviser Kathleen Allstot said. Classes and grades compete, and the winning class will get to pick the volunteer who will kiss a farm animal Friday afternoon. "This year it's going to be kiss a llama," Allstot said.
Toy, food and monetary donations in Othello can be dropped off at the Adams County Fire District No. 5 station, 220 South Broadway Ave., from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday (The station is closed from noon to 1 p.m.) Toys should be unwrapped. Some used toys might be accepted, but they must be in good condition, Ken Johnson said, who's on the board of the non-profit that's in charge of the Christmas basket campaign.
In one way or another almost everybody in Othello gets involved in the campaign. McFarland Middle School students conduct a huge food drive, Othello City Hall employees set up a mitten tree, quilters donate some of their works, the fire department volunteers its space for storage and assembly. "The junior high is one of our biggest contributors," Johnson said.
It's been this way in town for decades, the outgrowth of a private effort among friends to help a few families they knew. Over time it grew into the nonprofit group, Johnson said. People can make donations at the Columbia Bank branches in Othello and Ritzville, or at any U.S. Bank branch in the region. It's the Community Christmas Basket Fund, Johnson said. Donations also can be made at Johnson's Glass and Doors, 20 South Broadway Ave., in Othello.
Frosty's Friends Toy Drive will be under way in Soap Lake through the end of the week, said Kitty Thomas, one of the organizers. It's sponsored by the Soap Lake Food Bank. They're looking for donations of new toys, although used toys will be accepted in good condition.
This is the eighth year for the toy drive, which originated at McKay Healthcare and Rehab, Thomas said. Volunteers from McKay wrap the presents. Toys can be dropped off at McKay Healthcare, or at the food bank during business hours on Tuesday, Thomas said.
Distribution is scheduled for Saturday, and Santa will be on hand for pictures, she said.
People who want to donate to the toy drive or the food bank in general can mail donations to P.O. Box 925, Soap Lake, 98851.