Wheels begin turning on Christmas Express

Donated food sits in the Agape House after a previous canned food drive for Christmas Express.

In my years of interviewing people in Hermiston, there are certain phrases I hear over and over again. One is that Hermiston is a “very giving community.”

It does seem as if the community punches above its weight when it comes to the amount of money raised each year for charitable causes and livability projects. One of my first impressions of Hermiston was being in awe of the amount of donations Hermiston School District was able to raise to build Kennison Field, which had its grand opening the week I moved here.

As we enter this holiday season, it seems Hermiston (and surrounding communities) may need that giving spirit more than ever. Not only have mass layoffs and an economic recession created more need, but the pandemic has also shut down the normal methods of fundraising to help meet that need.

A good example of this is Christmas Express, a program Hermiston Police Department has run for the past 50 years to give out boxes of food and gifts to families and individuals in need. The main source of food for Christmas Express is a canned food drive at the local schools, where classes compete against each other to collect the most food. But this year students can’t bring canned food to classrooms they’re not attending in person.

Instead, the police department will be collecting canned food (no glass jars) from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 (except for Sunday, Dec. 6) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Hermiston Community Center, 415 S. Highway 395 in Hermiston.

As December draws near, other organizations will likely also be announcing efforts to collect warm winter coats, Christmas gifts, school supplies and other needed items. There is also a perennial need for donations to nonprofits, such as food banks.

For anyone who does have the means to donate, I would encourage you to do so — if possible, more generously than you have in the past. If you have the kind of financial comfort that allows you to impulsively buy a $30 sweater you saw advertised online, consider impulsively feeding a family instead.

If you wish you could afford to donate generously but can’t, there are plenty of other ways you can make a positive difference in someone’s life. Compliments, thank yous, and “I’ve been thinking about you lately, how have you been doing?” messages are free, but when they come at the right time they can mean a lot.

If you’re experiencing financial hardship I would also encourage you to not be afraid to ask for help that you need, or accept it when offered. These services are there for a reason. People want to help. Everyone goes through seasons in their life where they struggle in one way or another, and many who receive help during that time want to pay it forward afterward. Don’t deny them the opportunity.

Asking for help is hard, and for those who aren’t in a position to need it currently, I hope you’ll not make it more difficult with judgment and criticism. Give freely, without afterward trying to police whether the recipients of community programs all deserved it or used it the “right” way. People making such judgments usually don’t know the full story.

It’s been a difficult year. For many, this holiday season may be more bleak than usual. It’s not too early to start thinking what we can personally do to bring a little more light, a little more hope and a little more love to this winter.

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