Community Food & Toy Drive Serves Over 1,700 Amid Pandemic

More than 800 adults and 900 children in the local area received toys and grocery money this Christmas thanks to the Canby Community Food & Toy Drive — organized by Canby Kiwanis at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds and Events Center.

The annual community event — a Canby tradition for more than five decades — was not a given this year due to the coronavirus pandemic — and the fact that many Kiwanis volunteers are older and may be more at risk.

The pandemic has mostly wiped clean a monthly calendar of community events that is usually one of Canby’s busiest — and few would likely have been surprised if the food drive joined the list of cancellations.

But, as longtime Kiwanis member and Food & Toy Drive volunteer Todd Gary admitted, without the Food & Toy Drive, it just wouldn’t be Christmas.

“This makes my Christmas, you know?” Gary said Saturday morning, helping organize volunteer deliveries of grocery cards and toys for those who were not able to pick theirs up at the fairgrounds the previous day.

“It really does; it’s part of my Christmas. And everything else has been canceled, and we were just like, ‘OK, we have to have the Food & Toy Drive. We have to figure out a way to do something.'”

Find a way they did, though the pandemic and related restrictions drastically changed the way the event collected, organized and distributed donations of toys and food.

With schools all learning from home, the traditional canned food drives were quickly nixed. Instead, Kiwanis elected to hand out grocery cards — at an estimated cost of $30,000.

The actual cost wound up being $32,000, which went out to 371 families. Luckily, the City of Canby was able to get creative with some of its federal CARES Act funding, allocating $15,000 to help ensure the drive could serve all those who were in need.

“This is the first year that the city has given us money, and that made a huge difference,” said volunteer Luana Hill. “We appreciate all the things that everyone in the community has done.

“We’ve never asked for much money before, but this year, we have gotten so many donations, big and small. It has been really heartwarming to see the community support.”

Because the club was forced to reduce its number of toy donation bins from 50 to 10, volunteers held“>contactless drive-thru pickup events at the fairgrounds two weeks in a row, with Santa, Elf 314 and the Canby T-Rex Family in tow.

In the end, the event’s numbers were more or less what organizers have seen in previous years: a total of 1,771 people (863 adults and 908 children) were served during the distributions Friday and Saturday.

Pandemic or no, Hill supposed that, maybe, not that much had really changed after all.

“I think it’s running pretty much the same it always has,” she said. “I think it’s just one of those Canby traditions that we’re really lucky to be able to continue, and I hope it goes on for a long time.”

“You know, you hope that people won’t ever be in need, … but this is what people are going through, and it just makes me happy that we’re able to make it just a little bit better.”

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