Giving when it's needed most

This holiday season, with the economy acting Grinch-like, there are fewer gifts to go around and more people who need them, organizers from Ashland charities said this week.

So this year donations to local nonprofits will make an even bigger difference, said Ann Marie Hutson, vice president of Ashland Emergency Food Bank.

"The holidays are our biggest time to receive food and usually we hope the food will take us through at least January, but this year I can't even say that because I don't know if it will," she said Tuesday.

In November the food bank served a record 1,128 Ashland and Talent residents — 62 percent more children and adults than the same month last year, Hutson said.

A total of 726 adults and children in Ashland — 3.4 percent of the population, according to Portland State University census data — received food from the nonprofit last month.

The food bank's statistics present a picture of those in need in the Ashland community. This year, since the need appears great and because the city is "one of the most generous in the country" when it comes to donating to nonprofits, according to Hutson's research — the Daily Tidings has put together a guide detailing how to give locally. The charities listed below all serve Ashland and expressed immediate needs.

Give Food

Those who would like to donate to the food bank can drop off nonperishable food at the 2200 Ashland St. building between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, except Christmas, when the food bank will be closed. Tax receipts will be provided.

The all-volunteer organization especially needs canned soups, vegetables, beans and tuna, in addition to pasta, spaghetti sauce and cereal, Hutson said. Locals are welcome to donate special foods that the nonprofit isn't able to buy with its budget, such as pancake mixes, syrup, jelly, flour and sugar. Toiletries and toilet paper are also needed because food bank recipients can't buy those items with food stamps, Hutson added.

"Absolutely we need more food. It's amazing how quickly it's moving off the shelf now. We have huge amounts of people as compared to last year coming in and we don't know what the future will hold," she said.

Nine faith groups train volunteers to staff the food bank. Those who want to lend a hand should contact First Congregational, First Presbyterian, First United Methodist, Grace Lutheran, Trinity Episcopal, Rogue Valley Unitarian Universalist or Our Lady of the Mountain Catholic churches, or Havurah Shir Hadash or Temple Emek Shalom.

The nonprofit is also searching for a new building, as Coming Attractions Theatres, the owner of the 2200 Ashland St. lot, plans to build its new headquarters on the property. The food bank is expecting early next year to receive notice that it has two months to move out, Hutson said. Anyone who has suggestions about a new home for the food bank, preferably on the bus route, can call Hutson at 482-1433.

Additionally, people can mail cash or check donations to the nonprofit to P.O. Box 3578, Ashland, OR, 97520.

Give Health

The holidays are a time to remember loved ones and pay tribute to those who have helped others throughout the year, said Stephanie Roland, development associate for the Ashland Community Hospital Foundation.

That's why the foundation started Lights for Life 21 years ago. The event gives locals a chance to give in honor or in memory of someone and the funds raised support hospital programs and pay for necessary equipment, Roland explained.

"The holiday season is a time for sharing with loved ones and, in later years, it has a lot to do with memories," said Don Mackin, president of the foundation. "The season brings back a lot of positive feelings in most of us, and this is an opportunity to make a gesture of appreciation."

Locals may donate any amount to the nonprofit — which has placed a tree of lights at the entrance to downtown Ashland as part of the holiday campaign — through Dec. 27. Money raised will pay for a digital mammography machine at the hospital. The foundation is hoping to raise $50,000 more this holiday season to finish paying for the $300,000 machine, Roland said Monday.

Donors can request that a letter be sent to the person a gift was donated in honor of or to the family of a person who a gift was donated in memory of. Donors' names — unless donors choose to remain anonymous — will also be included in Daily Tidings ads, scheduled to run through Dec. 24.

To donate, log on to or call 201-4014.

Give Warmth

Even children can understand the need for warm gloves, hats and scarves in winter time, which is why the Ashland Public Library decided to give kids a chance to give winter gear to their peers this season.

"We're calling it 'De los ninos, para lost ninos,' which means 'for the children from the children,'" said Margi Cicerrella, children's librarian.

"It's a little different than going and buying a toy for child, and children can understand that because they have their own mittens and hats. Especially on a day like today, with the snow, it would be very cold if you didn't have those," she said Tuesday. "There's an immediate need to stay warm."

Locals can drop off new, kids-sized hats, scarves, gloves and mittens in the children's section of 410 Siskiyou Blvd. library through Jan. 3 during normal operating hours. The library will close one hour early on Dec. 24 and 31, and will not be open on Christmas or New Years.

Cicerrella will give the donated items to 60 kids in the Migrant Head Start preschool program in Ashland, when she stops by to read to them for story time in early January.

For more information, call 774-6995.

Give Hope

Teenagers who are in foster care or homeless are sometimes forgotten during holiday donation drives, as attention is often focused on young children, said Nicole Watson, development coordinator for Community Works.

"The teenagers get left out a lot," she said Tuesday.

The nonprofit has received the fewest donations this year for teens who consequentially may not receive a gift over the holidays, she said.

Community Works tries to gather gifts for teens at its Ashland residential treatment center, Lithia Springs, and for homeless youths it serves.

"It can be a way for people to teach their kids that there are a lot of people who don't have as much as they do," Watson said. "It's a good learning experience for people who have children, for them to give back."

Those who would like to donate can buy new gifts for teens or purchase gift cards at stores like Target or Wal-Mart, and drop them off at Community Works' main office, 900 E. Main St. in Medford. Tuesday is last day to drop off gifts. For more information, call Watson at 799-2393 ext. 228.

Give Dinner

About 800 people are expected to eat at Ashland Christian Fellowship's 29th annual Christmas dinner and the church is looking for volunteers to help cook, set-up and clean-up.

People can also donate money to the church or gift cards to Shop 'n Kart, where the church will buy much of the food for the dinner, said Luke Frechette, an associate pastor at the church who is organizing the gathering. In addition, the church is looking for business owners that are willing to donate food for the meal.

The free meal will be held at the Historic Ashland Armory from noon to 4 p.m. on Dec. 25.

"The cool part about this particular meal that I've seen is that there are people who have plenty of options, yet choose to come. You see people in fur coats and you see people in borrowed coats," Frechette said.

For more information, contact the church at 482-8539.

Staff writer Hannah Guzik can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 226 or

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