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Toy, game and book drive succeeds

At the start of Jackson County Library Services’ toy, game and book drive for families displaced by the Almeda fire, youth services coordinator Brystan Strong thought she’d be able to handle intake and distribution by herself.

At the start of the drive in late September, she gave herself three days to organize the donations and didn’t anticipate needing any additional staff help.

She hadn’t been prepared for the Rogue Valley’s generosity.

An exact count on the items donated over the course of a week at the Medford branch wasn’t available, but library officials estimate it was in the thousands.

“We were (at) day two of seven days of allowance for people to drop off items, and already, our circulation room was full,” Strong said. “We were shoving things in people’s offices in the meantime.”

For Strong, it was a visual representation of a community pulling together following the destructive fire that sparked Sept. 8 and destroyed thousands of homes.

“It was overwhelming in a great sort of way,” Strong said. “The meeting room in Medford, it’s full of stuff. And we still have stuff in storage that we can replenish with.”

The items dropped off at the Medford branch were stored away temporarily for several days to mitigate the potential spread of COVID-19, followed by a quality inspection from some library staff. Sorting items by type and age group came next, resulting in shopping centers, of sorts.

All donations have since been distributed among the Medford, Ashland, Central Point, Jacksonville and White City branches, available for pickup during each branch’s regular hours.

Families are allowed in one at a time to look, shop around and take one or two items per person. It’s all on the honor system.

“We contemplated, ‘Do we want to just put a selection of things in boxes, or do we want to let families choose?’” Strong said. “We ended up on the latter.”

They wanted to give families more agency in their selections; gifts as opposed to donations.

The Phoenix and Talent branches were not selected, even though they have reopened since the fire, as many of the displaced residents are living in other communities.

Some donations included some rather big-ticket items, too. Families who come by to shop also receive raffle tickets — if they want them — and are entered into a drawing. A raffle for those more substantial items will be held at the end of the month.

Reach Mail Tribune web editor Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com.

Donated toys are stored at the Medford library Thursday. A call for donations to be distributed to children displaced by the recent fires resulted in an overwhelming number of offerings. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch