Food and Toy Drive Makes Season Bright for Hundreds of Local Families

The Community Food and Toy Drive by Canby Kiwanis is one of the things that makes Canby, well, Canby, and it went off without a hitch this weekend at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds.

The annual outreach is one of the Kiwanians’ signature events, serving nearly 400 families and 1,000 local children with hand-picked toys and a holiday feast.

“It’s a big day,” the drive’s longtime chair, Sharon Schneider, said with a grin at Horning Hall Friday morning.

Dozens of volunteers contribute hundreds of hours of work to ensure the annual outreach goes off without a hitch. Photo by Tyler Francke.

The event has been modified and streamlined in some ways due to the ongoing pandemic. The food boxes that organizers handed out for decades have morphed into gift cards to reduce the workload on volunteers. Recipients are served from their cars, drive-thru-style, rather than coming in drive headquarters in person.

But the most important things have not changed since Kiwanis launched the outreach 64 years ago.

“As long as you live in Canby School District and feel like you need a little help for the holidays, that’s our criteria,” Schneider said. “It really touches people. I had one lady I called today and told her, ‘Come by this afternoon, and we’ll have something for you and your kids.’ She said, ‘You’re just making me cry.'”

The event has transitioned to a streamlined drive-thru event in the pandemic years. Photo by Tyler Francke.

Kiwanians collected and handed out almost $33,000 in food cards for Cutsforth’s Market this year (funds cannot be spent on tobacco or alcohol) as well as nearly $3,500 in $25 Fred Meyer gift cards for 16- to 18-year-olds (a notoriously difficult-to-shop-for demographic).

Despite the streamlining, the drive remains a monumental effort, which involved collecting hundreds of donated toys in collection bins across the city and on collection days at the fairgrounds, then sorting and bagging them across several weeks at the 4-H building.

Members of the Canby Rotary Club assisted their fellow civic organization this year, Schneider said. Then, Canby Fire District personnel descend on the fairgrounds to move the hundreds of bagged gifts to Horning Hall in preparation of going out the door to needy families.

The Canby Community Food and Toy Drive served nearly 400 families and 1,000 kids in the Canby School District this year. Photo by Tyler Francke.

The drive got an additional boost this year from Canby High School students and staff, which donated dozens of wrapped gifts and more than $1,200 to the effort Friday morning.

Substitute teacher Deb Harman said she could hardly believe her eyes when she came to J.D. Bellum’s leadership class for the pickup and saw two large tables piled high with the lovingly wrapped gifts.

“It was so moving, it was pretty hard for me to not just start crying,” Harman said. “When I pulled up here at the fairgrounds, all of the Kiwanians just lit up. There was so much joy. And it took seven or eight of us to unload all that stuff. It was incredible.”

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