Volunteers distributed pet food along with grocery gift cards and gifts. photo by Jim Cornelius
Volunteers distributed pet food along with grocery gift cards and gifts. photo by Jim Cornelius

The Christmas season is the season of giving. For two decades, the Sisters Kiwanis Club, Sisters firefighters and others have rallied to give to those in need in the

community through the Holiday Food Share program and the associated fire district toy drive. The program provides qualified families with Christmas meals, gifts for children and food for pets.

The program made its distributions on Friday at the community hall at Sisters Fire Hall.

Some 192 families were served in Sisters Country. The Furry Friends Pet Food Drive served 358 animals (126 cats, 218 dogs, three birds, 10 chickens and one horse) through community donations of pet food and cash to the Furry Friends Foundation. Some five tons of pet food were distributed.

The Christmas meals were handled differently this year. Instead of providing the actual meal as has been done for many years, families received gift cards redeemable at Melvin's Fir Street Market or Ray's Food Place. The change significantly reduced the logistical burden on the handful of Kiwanis volunteers who manage the project in the months leading up to the food distribution day, according to Kiwanian David Hiller.

Hiller said that reaction to the change has been mostly positive, with recipients appreciating the flexibility.

"People have said, 'Now we can buy what we want,'" Hiller said.

Kiwanis received the same level of discount it has always received from Melvin's and Ray's, Hiller said. While recipients are "paying" retail prices, Hiller said, the gift cards carry a higher dollar value than did the provided meals.

"We're actually giving more money to the people than we did before," Hiller said.

The meals were valued at $47 per family; the cards carried an average value of $37.50 per person.

Cards were divvied up in increments: A card for one or two was $75; three to four was $100; five to six was $125 and seven to eight was $150.

The Sisters community provided donations to the Kiwanis program, and also to the toy drive operated by Sisters firefighters. Community members selected ornaments off "giving trees" at Ray's and Bi-Mart and purchased gifts for folks who qualified through the food share program.

Hiller noted that the changes in the program this year allowed the distribution to be staged at the fire hall, which meant that firefighters did not have to haul the donated gifts across town to Sisters Elementary School for distribution.

The changes made distribution day a little more low-key affair, but the generosity of the community was no less appreciated for all that.