Volunteers prepare a Christmas meal package during Thursday’s Kiwanis Food Share distribution. photo by Jim Cornelius
Volunteers prepare a Christmas meal package during Thursday’s Kiwanis Food Share distribution. photo by Jim Cornelius

A volunteer shouted out a list of needs - a family with pets. Across the Sisters Elementary School commons, volunteers of all ages sprang into action. A couple loaded up a food cart with shopping bags full of foodstuffs before steering it over to a table loaded down with frozen turkeys. Boy Scouts hoisted bags of dog and cat food into carts and pushed them to the doors, where grateful families trundled Christmas dinner, a load of pet food and a bag of toys out to waiting cars.

Christmas was considerably merrier for 215 Sisters families, thanks to a combined community effort to feed folks in need, along with their pets, and to provide gifts for youngsters.

The Sisters Kiwanis Christmas Food Share program has for years provided Christmas dinner with all the trimmings to families in need. The Furry Friends Pet Food Drive has taken care of the needs of these families' pets, while Sisters firefighters have led a toy drive to bring holiday cheer to Sisters youth.

For one recipient of Christmas dinner, the effort meant "absolute peace of mind."

"I'm going to have a friend (over for dinner), a fellow who needs some help," the woman said. "I'm going to share the food with him."

The Sisters woman appreciated the helping hand, which makes all the difference in hard times.

"I was doing great till the economy took a dive," she said. "Now I live strictly on Social Security."

The generosity of the community touched her. She tries to give back by making a quilt for Kiwanis.

"I love the Sisters community and I hope to be here the rest of my life," she said. "In fact, my son and his family are going to be moving to the area - not just for the beauty and the climate, but for the community."

The volunteers appreciate the program as much as the recipients.

The Cundiff family has been volunteering for the food share program for the past 13 years, ever since Jamie Cundiff got them started through her involvement with Key Club in Sisters schools. Now living in Aspen, Colorado, where she teaches K-8 environmental science, Cundiff was back at her post, handing out cranberry and apple juice in temperatures that hadn't cracked 20 degrees.

"It's our family tradition," she said.

Sisters firefighter Jeff May noted that it is the generosity of the entire community that makes the program possible.

"The community was so supportive," he said. "How can you thank a community that just outpours and outpours and outpours?"

Judging from the festive atmosphere at the elementary school, the work itself is thanks enough.