Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Demand for food assistance soars

Realtors group pressed for resources

Express Staff Writer

Volunteers help ready baskets for donations at the Hailey Armory. Photo by Willy Cook

The Sawtooth Board of Realtors' Community Holiday Basket Program is in such demand this year that the organization is seeking extra assistance.

As a result of the slow economy, more families than ever before have applied for help through the annual program, which provides food and gifts to those in need. The program is normally supported in large part by the real estate community. However, this year, due to troubles in their industry, real estate professionals are asking for extra help from the community.

More than 340 families will receive food baskets this year. This is an increase of 20 percent up from 2007, said organizer Robin Christensen.

"People are trying to decide between groceries and gifts for their kids," she said.

This is also the first time that the Community Holiday Baskets program will only provide gifts for children under 18 and not entire families.

Last year, 289 families received the combination of both gifts and food.

Getting a basket requires an application process, and those were completed in mid-November. Since then, however, some "emergency situations" have arisen, Christensen said.

She said those include seniors, disabled persons and head of households who have lost their jobs.

There are more than 650 children on the adoption list.

As of Monday, some 290 children had been spoken for. It costs $30 to sponsor one of these children. Sizes, color preferences and requests will be given to every adopter, who doesn't have to shop. Rather, if someone wants to write a check to Holiday Baskets, volunteers with the help of Youth Adult Konnection, or YAK, members will take on the shopping task.

Local Realtors, who in the past have been at the heart of the program's support, are feeling the pinch of the bad economy. As such the community is helping in a myriad of ways. For instance, Anita and Keith Selner of Bruce's Automotive have launched a food drive with an ambitious goal of helping to feed 100 families. Mark and Jill Johnson, of Silver Creek Seed, have gathered more than a ton of potatoes to donate. The Toy Run, held annually, donated many toys that will be added to the children's gifts.

Christensen said Pat Robinson of Blue Heron Workshop told friends and customers about the program and the need for children to be adopted, and the phone started ringing with requests. She also said that Bessie Radabaugh, King's store manager, donated a couple hundred toys. She said that last week, Mike Kelley, the Toy Run organizer, picked up extra adoption papers, then rode around town to find some adopters and more toys.

"One of our volunteers took $39 to the Toy Store in Hailey to buy a few items on sale and returned with several bags of goodies worth much more," Christensen said. "One of our volunteers hit the shops and got checks to sponsor more children. And the stories go on. People are saying, 'What do you need? How can we help? That's so wonderful to me.'"

There are also cash cans for spare change or more at all three Atkinsons' Markets, Albertson's in Hailey, Splash 'n' Dash in Bellevue and Silver Creek Convenience Store in Picabo. Non-perishable food items may be donated at Bruce's Automotive in Bellevue or any Hunger Coalition food bin.

Adoption gifts will be accepted on Monday, Dec. 8, and Tuesday, Dec. 9, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Hailey Armory.

For more information or to make a financial contribution contact Christensen at 720-2905, or visit

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