Bob Marquette, chairman of the Oregon Health and Welfare Committee, is gearing up for another year of providing Christmas goods for those in need.
The Committee organizes the program for residents in Oregon, Harbor View, Jerusalem Township, and Curtice.
“Every year, we’re back,” Marquette said at an Oregon council meeting on Nov. 21.
He emphasized that the program relies on private donations, not tax revenue, to provide toys and foodstuffs to the needy every Christmas.
This year, the group will begin distributing the bags at 8 a.m. on Dec. 21 at the Water Department, said Marquette.
“We first start off with about 1,500 bags,” said Marquette. “Once we have the bags all lined up, we segregate and separate all the different canned goods - about 3,000 lbs. of them - that the kids in our school system have collected over the last month and a half. The canned goods go into the bags for our recipients. Then we also get toys. We make sure all the children up to 12-years-old get some type of toy. We don’t purchase these. It’s what is purchased by the community. The toys are separated according to gender and age.”
A number of bikes are also donated to the program, he added.
“Some bikes actually come through our police department, where they are lost or found, broken or stolen. When a complete search of the real owners is done, the bikes are then repaired and cleaned up, with some donated to the program,” he said.
In addition to the 3,000 lbs. of canned goods, meat products bought from local grocery stores are put in the bags, he said.
“We purchase a number of things from the meat departments from Lee Williams and Kroger, and put them in the bags,” he said.
In the past, Bay Park Community Hospital donated 53 turkeys for 53 families of four or more, and Mercy St. Charles Hospital donated 1,000 rolls of toilet paper, he said.
And over 500 toothbrushes and toothpaste were donated from the Oregon dental practice of Dr. Joseph Sexton and Dr. Virginia Carner, said Marquette.
“This comes right out of the stock that they have. Dr. Sexton and his wife and one of his employees came and helped dispense them,” he said.
Two classes from Clay High School, he said, also help disperse items for the bags, he added.
“Our schools are invaluable to us,” he said.
A number of bags are distributed to each family, he said.
“Those with families of eight or nine will end up with nine or 10 bags,” he said.
About 80-90 volunteers help with the program, which serviced 258 families last year, he said.
“I have two applicants who are on Social Security, one who gets $176 per month, and the other $194 per month. I can’t live on that. I don’t know how they do it. But they do. That’s why this is so invaluable that we give back to those people in need in our communities,” said Marquette.
In the last two years, the Committee asked Jerusalem Township to help take applications from township residents, he said.
He invited members of council to help deliver the bags on Dec. 21, between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.
“When it comes to the city and this entire community, we have the best public that comes in to help. We had some real nice things happen this year,” said Marquette.