Thanks to community donations and a last-minute infusion of money from its own reserves, the Salvation Army has the food and toys it needs to help 900 families this holiday season.

Thanks to community donations and a last-minute infusion of money from its own reserves, the Salvation Army has the food and toys it needs to help 900 families this holiday season.

Distribution began Wednesday and will conclude today.

Just two weeks ago, the Salvation Army had collected only 300 bags' worth of food, falling far short of the 1,600 bags' worth needed to feed all the families.

The organization put out a call for help, and community groups rallied to fill the need.

Students at McLoughlin Middle School filled a truck of nonperishable food items. A group from Harvest Christian Church in Medford hosted a Saturday morning food raid. Groups of school students and local families trickled in with food they'd collected and purchased.

Maj. Glenda Berko, Salvation Army shelter supervisor, said the food program spent $5,000 to top off holiday meal bags, adding items such as cranberries, yams and canned fruit. The bags also included turkeys and other holiday extras.

Without the recent spike in donations, Berko said, the organization would have spent closer to $8,000 to buy extra food for the Christmas season.

"The recent donations were just wonderful," Berko said Wednesday. "We'll probably have to put in an order for dry goods tonight, but we've got plenty of canned goods. We got a tremendous amount donated in the last week. We had groups coming in, schools, little kids. ... This community is so responsive. It's just wonderful."

Berko said the Salvation Army still needs dry goods, such as beans, rice and pasta, to meet ongoing demand into the new year, but that canned goods and other supplies were above what had been anticipated.

With Christmas just days away, Berko said she hoped the community would continue to support the Salvation Army.

"Once we give out all the bags, the pantry will be pretty bare again. Even after the holidays, the more we have donated the less we'll have to buy," she said.

"We'll use up what's left in the next month or six weeks, so hopefully the community will continue to support us."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffypollock@juno.com.