For the Hermiston Police Department, it’s not too early to be thinking about Christmas.
School closures for COVID-19 have had to make the department rethink the annual Christmas Express. The program — in its 51st year — provides boxes of food and gifts for families in need each December.
Usually, schools help out the police department with canned food drives that raise a significant portion of the food distributed each year. But Hermiston Police Chief Jason Edmiston said this year, with school mostly taking place online, the department will be setting up a drop-off location instead.
From Nov. 30 to Dec. 11, people will be able to drop off canned food (no glass items) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Hermiston Community Center, 415 S. Highway 395. Edmiston said police department staff will be there to take donations and sort them by type of food.
When the time gets closer, there will also be information available about where in the community people can drop off Christmas gifts for community members in need as well.
Edmiston said it’s hard to predict how the haul at the community center will compare to when classes are competing against each other to collect the most canned food for their schools. But he has faith that the department will be able to provide 500 boxes of food for Agape House to give away as usual.
“Hermiston has historically been a can-do community when it comes to fundraising,” he said.
The department also uses cash donations to buy a turkey for each box and fill in the gaps in supplies to reach 500 fully stocked boxes, and Edmiston said they have a “cushion” of money saved up that will be able to compensate if less food than usual comes in this year.
City of Hermiston staff and their family members will help put together the boxes of food as usual.
Police used to drop off the boxes for families nominated to receive one, but in recent years has switched to having volunteers call people to notify them they are on the list to be able to pick up a box from the Agape House, 500 W. Harper Road, in Hermiston. Edmiston said that will be the case again this year.