Dec. 16, 2020 — The 2020 holiday season is considerably less festive for many people than it has been in the past. Many in the area are experiencing difficult times, either due to employment issues, providing schooling for their children, or fending off the dangers of COVID-19.
These challenges have led to an unusually high number of requests for assistance from local support agencies like Siuslaw Outreach Services and Florence Food Share. The increased need hasn’t gone unnoticed by long-time supporters of the food share, Mary and Al Baunach.
The couple coordinates a food and cash collection from their home inside Florentine Estates in order to ensure that people who might not have the means can provide for their families at this time.
Individuals can drop off donations at the Baunachs’ home, which they have decorated with thousands of Christmas lights and numerous inflatable holiday characters.
A giant Santa Claus and snowmen, reindeer and penguins are just some of the characters on display, and the couple has spent a great deal of money, not to mention time, creating a unique and festive donation drop-off location.
“This is our 13th year collecting donations for local groups and for the last six years we have been collecting cash and food donations, mostly for Florence Food Share,” Al said. “We start on Oct. 1 and collect through Jan. 1.”
Florence Food Share comes to pick up donations when bins are full in front of the house.
“So far this year, we have collected about 3,000 pounds of food and some generous cash donations, which we will pass on directly to Florence Food Share,” Al said. “This year has been different, harder for a lot of people, and we want to help as many as we can.”
The Baunachs have one of the largest lighting displays in the Florence area. They hope the lights bring fun to their neighborhood, and to those who show up to drop off donations.
“We add a few more lights and things each year just to keep it fresh. And we try to make it interesting, so that people can enjoy the lights and make it part of their holiday,” Al said.
The bins out front can accept donations of many kinds between the hours of 9 a.m. and 8 p.m.
“In addition to canned and dried goods, we also take apples and oranges — and we have bins for cat and dog food,” Al added. “As we get close to Thanksgiving and Christmas, we also start collecting turkeys and hams for families to have on those holidays.”
The Baunachs are part of a friendly, interactive community at Florentine Estates. Al said he is appreciative of the many neighbors and friends who have supported the collection effort in the past and believes that will continue to an even greater degree this year.
“We live in a gated community and our people are very generous. They bring food and cash donations, and we have some individuals that wait till we have received our donations from the community to make a cash donation to allow Florence Food Share to buy some of the things that are not donated,” he said.
The Baunachs even have forms for people who want to make a tax-deductible donation.
“We want to thank everyone that has contributed in the past,” Al said. “We couldn’t do this without the support of the people of Florence.”
The Baunachs will be collecting donations through Jan. 1, 2021, at 866 Western Way, inside Florentine Estates and at 541-997-9654.
The Baunachs Christmas holiday light display can also be recognized by voting for them in the City of Florence Holiday Lighting Contest at thesiuslawnews.secondstreetapp.com/2020HolidayLights/.