The Hermiston Police Department and city of Hermiston just concluded the 48th annual Christmas Express program. Each year since I took over in 2004 we have tried to fine tune and make the operation as efficient and effective as possible with the incredible amount of donations that come from the community. I have ensured a thank you note is sent to everyone we know to have donated money, equipment or services.
This year I was approached by a community member who asked if I ever thought about recognizing those people who donate to the program. I was a bit taken back because I do try to recognize the people who make the machine run.
But the question itself is still a good one. Is there a best way to recognize and thank people for the good they do to make Hermiston a welcoming and diverse community? To be quite honest, my greatest fear in attempting something like that is two-fold: one, some people may not want to be recognized and two, I may forget someone.
Cash donations for the 2017 program came in at a staggering $15,651. This included a $9,000 donation from the Hermiston Rotary International Club (the largest monetary contributor to the program each year) and other donations ranging from $10 to $3,500. The gentleman who donated $3,500 this year, donated the same amount last year. We had an anonymous $500 cash donation this year and clubs such as the Umatilla Lodge of Perfection for Scottish Rite, The Funrunner ATV Club, and both the Big River Men’s and Ladies Golf Clubs each donated. I’m going to opt not to name the individual donors, but you know who you are and you know if it wasn’t for each of you, our program would eventually wither away.
Each year when I give presentations and talk about our program, I always say despite being born and raised here, it wasn’t until I started working this program that I realized how generous our area farmers are. Make no mistake, this program would not be successful if it weren’t for people like John and Skip Walchli with donations of food and equipment from both their farms, Troy Betz and Greg Juul of Bud Rich Potato, and Alan Cleaver of Columbia Basin Onion.
We have other partners that donate services and equipment as well. This includes the Walmart Distribution Center, Sanitary Disposal, Living Faith Church, Hammell Transport and of course perhaps our biggest partner, Dave Hughes and his staff at the Agape House.
Presents flood the lobby of the police department and the overwhelming majority of those come from people unknown to us, at least by name. Altrusa International consistently donate an incredible amount of toys and the KOHU staff to include sports announcer Erick Olson do a great job of creating competition that goes for a good cause — a child having the opportunity to open a present Christmas morning. The tenants at Desert Sage Manor spend all year making dozens and dozens of beautiful quilts that are given away during our program. We have received hygiene products from local dentists as we know there is a direct correlation between hygiene and self-esteem, especially with our youth.
Lastly, I would like to thank Ric Sherman, not only for his 30 years of service as an educator in Hermiston, but the non-stop work he puts into this program each year assisting and reminding me about various things. Ric is instrumental in energizing the second group I’d like to thank, that being the students and staff of the Hermiston School District. The amount of food (nearly 14,000 cans) and presents collected during the canned food drives ensures we are able to push out food boxes weighing nearly 100 pounds once all the produce and turkeys are added.
I pray I have not inadvertently forgotten someone, but this is my humble attempt to remind people that we here at the Hermiston Police Department know the silent majority is out there doing good things for all the right reasons and we appreciate it.
Jason Edmiston is the chief of the Hermiston Police Department.