Nov. 28, 2018 — Soroptimist International of Florence will be holding its annual Florence Community Christmas Basket project on Saturday, Dec. 15, which gives away free toys and food baskets to families in need across the Siuslaw region.
“We’re truly blessed and honored that we’re able to do this, and it’s all because of the fantastic community support we have,” said Soroptimist member Michelle Fraley.
She is heading up the toy giveaway portion of the event, which has been an annual tradition for more than 30 years.
Soroptimist’s event is broken up into two portions, the first being the toy giveaway.
“I honestly couldn’t imagine a child’s Christmas without toys,” Fraley said. “For us, that’s a big thing — to make sure those kids have that smile on their face Christmas morning. It’s just a way for families that are unable to provide presents for whatever circumstances to come and shop for their kids and provide Christmas for their kids.”
From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., people gather at the Florence Church of the Nazarene, 1536 12th St., to pick out toys in a room overflowing with games, dolls, toy cars and hundreds of other free gifts for children aged newborn through 12 years of age.
“We give out stocking stuffers, as well as socks and gloves for all the kids,” Fraley said. “Then we give out two bigger items, along with a few smaller items or each child.”
For those who cannot make the event, toys will still be available in the days following the giveaway.
“We do get phone calls all the way through to Christmas Eve of people who say, ‘Hey, I couldn’t make it,’” Fraley said. “We’ll bag up whatever we have left if it’s age appropriate, and continue to give it away.”
Then, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Siuslaw Middle School entrance off Oak Street, cars can line up for food baskets, which include a variety of holiday standards, including turkey or chicken, stuffing, cranberry sauce dinner rolls and canned vegetables. The baskets also hold fresh potatoes, carrots, apples, oranges, eggs milk, butter and pantry items such as oatmeal, crackers, peanut butter and jam. There will also be cookies and candy canes.
“It’s designed to help out our community with a food basket that provides a complete Christmas dinner and then some other food to get them through the remainder of the year, when the kids are home from school and what-not,” Fraley said.
The food boxes, which can serve family sizes from two to 10, are purchased fresh from monetary donations given to Soroptimist over the year. The annual cost of the food program is just under $25,000.
Once the funds are raised, Fraley and her team go to local grocers such as Safeway, Fred Meyer, Bi-Mart and Grocery Outlet.
“The grocery stores are phenomenal to us,” Fraley said. “They give donations or really great deals on the food that we purchase. If they have something that goes on sale, but we’re not ready to buy it, they honor the sale price for us.”
Last year, the Community Christmas Basket project gave out 375 boxes of food.
“Soroptimist’s mantra is ‘improving the lives of women and children,’” Fraley said as to why the event is important for her organization. “We’re not only improving the lives of women and children, but also the families within the community.”
And it’s a communitywide effort that makes the event possible, with Soroptimist working hand in hand with other organizations such as Rotary, Kiwanis and various churches in the area.
“We wouldn’t be able to do this without the community and other service organizations that help support us,” Fraley said,
However, she added Fraley that the Soroptimists still have not reached their $25,000 goal, and they are still looking for more toy donations.
Monetary donations can be mailed to Soroptimist International of Florence, PO Box 1209, Florence OR 97439. A donation of $65 pays for a food box for a family of two.
Toys can be dropped off at various locations throughout the area, including local banks, Holloway and Associates at 733 Highway 101 and Hoberg’s Auto Repair at 345 Highway 101.
Toys can also be dropped off at the Nazarene church starting Wednesday afternoon Dec. 12, going all the way to the morning of the giveaway.