Group hopes holiday donations will meet needs

Last year around this time, the offices of Encompass (then called Children's Services of Sno-Valley) were flooded with donated food, decorative items and fun extras. So were the meeting rooms and the hallways.

Last year around this time, the offices of Encompass (then called Children’s Services of Sno-Valley) were flooded with donated food, decorative items and fun extras. So were the meeting rooms and the hallways.

In fact, there were enough donations given by the community that 190 families were able to receive Thanksgiving and winter holiday food baskets as part of Encompass’ “Respectful Giving” program.

Encompass employees expect this year to be no different.

Actually, they hope Respectful Giving will receive even more donations in 2005, allowing Encompass to reach more people in the community who are in need.

“We hope this opens up more people to step into our building,” said community activities manager Suzanne Oliver. “One of my goals is to reach new members of the community, to reach out to other pockets of the community.”

The program is designed to give medium- to low-income and/or struggling families the dignity of celebrating the holidays in their own way, while providing them with the necessary materials and food to do so.

“They get to choose [what and how to celebrate],” said Laurie Vanderboom, the director of programs for Encompass. “How good does that feel?”

Food baskets are created by members of the community; individuals, neighborhoods, classrooms and local businesses have all participated. They put together the holiday baskets (which can actually be made from any liftable box or container including laundry baskets, plastic containers and crates) for families and drop them off at Encompass.

During pick-up times, families who requested baskets can come to Encompass to pick them up and be treated to hot chocolate, cookies and additional support resources and information.

“Not everybody gets a turkey; not everyone wants a turkey,” explained family support manager Kerry Beymer. “They [families] can choose what they want.”

Encompass, a nonprofit community-based family support center, acts as the liaison between giver and receiver to ensure privacy and respect to those picking up the donated baskets.

“We really want people to feel comfortable,” said Oliver.

Those interested in donating should put together a complete food basket, though monetary donations and items not in baskets are also accepted.

Participants are asked to consider the size of the family, which may range anywhere from two to 16 people, with the average family size being four to six people. Donations should not be religion-based, as to respect the various cultures and beliefs of those receiving the baskets.

Donation suggestions include nonperishable items such as spices, hot chocolate mix, cereal, plastic containers, tin foil, zip-lock bags, dried fruit, stuffing and gravy mixes, potatoes/yams, chips and salsa, cooking oil, juices, marshmallows, rice, oatmeal and more.

In addition to food items, Encompass also suggested donations of “extras” such as candles, decorations, wrapping paper, wreaths, tablecloths, napkins and more.

“I think it’s so nice that we put these little extras in these baskets,” said Beymer. “It’s expensive to buy decorations if you don’t have the [extra] money.”

Gift certificates are suggested as a way to allow families to make their own selections for needed items. Suggested stores include Factory Stores at North Bend, Target, Fred Meyers, grocery stores, salons and gas stations. Gift certificates and gift cards are also suggested in place of toys.

Anyone eligible for Encompass’ services is also eligible for the baskets, Oliver said.

Beymer said that in the past, there have been as many baskets available as there have been requests.

The basket donations are probably equal in value to the cost of a nice holiday meal, plus amenities, Vanderboom said.

Volunteers are always appreciated, said Oliver, who noted that she had about 60 volunteers help with the baskets last year. There are afternoon, evening and weekend time slots available this year for volunteers. Call Encompass for more information.

The program began seven years ago when people in the community came to Encompass looking for ways to be involved and to assist others during the holidays.

Encompass felt that creating the holiday baskets was a good way for community members to get involved and to help families, while still enabling those families to make their own choices.

“We felt like it was really important for families to be empowered,” Vanderboom said. “It’s an educational process for the community to be sure that everyone has dignity and is respected, but still meet a need.”

Drop-offs and pick-ups will be at Encompass, 1407 Boalch Ave. N.W. in North Bend. Thanksgiving drop-offs will be accepted from noon to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 16. Winter holiday drop-offs will be accepted from 4-8 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13, and from noon to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 14. Monetary donations are accepted any time.

Call (425) 888-2777 or visit Encompass for information or to sign up to donate a basket.

Pickups for Thanksgiving food baskets will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19. Winter Holiday basket pick-ups are from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17.