A call for holiday help

More families face hard times this year, say social service agencies, making donations vital
Salvation Army employee Crystal Taylor unloads some of the 6,000 pounds of food donated by Hedrick Middle School students in Medford Friday. Though donations are pouring in, the need is still great, Salvation Army organizers say.Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell

Toys and food are stacking up for needy families in Jackson County, but demand has pushed up the need for even more donations for the Salvation Army's holiday assistance program.

"We need lots of help with food," said Jackie Agee, development director for the Salvation Army. "We need lots of turkeys."

How you can help

Salvation Army: To donate or volunteer, call 541-773-6965.

ACCESS Inc.: Drop off nonperishable food items at local fire stations or at the ACCESS offices at 3630 Aviation Way, just west of Costco; mail cash donations to ACCESS Food for Hope, P.O. Box 4666, Medford OR 97501; or visit www.accesshelps.org and click the "Donate Now" button on the left side of the page to donate online.

So far, a record 1,500 families signed up for assistance this year, well ahead of the 1,200 in 2010.

Agee said her organization anticipated that even more families would have registered this year because of the economy.

"A lot of people that used to be donors to the program registered for help this year," she said.

The Salvation Army has seen an overall 35 percent increase in requests for help from its food pantry this year. Nationwide, the number of people seeking help from the Salvation Army is expected to be its largest since 1898.

The last day for registration at the Salvation Army's distribution center was Thursday at 226 N. Ross Lane, the former site of the Kid Time! Discovery Experience.

Agee said those in need still can call 541-772-8149, and the Salvation Army will make an attempt to help them. Those seeking help have to show identification for all family members along with income verification and proof of residence.

The North Ross Lane distribution center, owned by Batzer Construction, is filling up with toys and bags of food that will be handed out to registered families Dec. 19-21.

While toys and food have been rolling in from Jackson County residents, Agee said cash donations also are necessary to help meet the volume of food and toys needed for the program.

She said $14,000 has been collected so far. "If we could get another $10,000, that would be wonderful," she said.

Volunteers are needed to help fill out toy wish lists for children and to box food for families.

Les Schwab Tire Centers donated 163 turkeys, but Agee said at least another 500 turkeys are needed.

To donate or volunteer, call 541-773-6965.

Food drives have been held at Oregon-based markets such as Fred Meyer, Ray's Food Place and Bi-Mart. ACCESS Inc. also donates food to the Salvation Army that it collects from local markets such as Food 4 Less/Sherm's Thunderbird, which donated an entire truckload of food Friday totaling 23,000 pounds.

Even local schools are pitching in. Hedrick Middle School students loaded up 6,000 pounds of food Friday that were delivered to the distribution center.

Agee said, "We have a sea of food, but we could use at least two more oceans to fill our needs."

The Salvation Army also is providing distribution this year for the Toys for Tots program, which provided toys to 6,000 children in 2,500 families last year.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email dmann@mailtribune.com.

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