>Annual program has seen more need for gifts and food boxes than ever before
According to the Oregon Employment Department, for the last six months Crook County has had the highest unemployment rate in the entire state. The rate for September is reported at 19.7 percent. No wonder the county's Holiday Partnership has received more applications for gifts and food boxes than ever before.
   "Numbers are up. The final count is nearly 3,000 applications that went out. Some are eligible for both gifts and food boxes. Some only do gifts, because they have other options for food, and some are only eligible for food," explained Brenda Comini of Crook County Commission on Children and Families.
   Many who have requested support are people who have never needed help before.
   Recipients of the holiday giving program make applications with proof of income/need. They may apply for food and/or gifts for seniors, disabled and children. Eligible recipients are then informed when and where to pick up their food boxes and/or gifts. Those who can't get out, can arrange for delivery ahead of time.
   The Partnership was developed out of a need for coordinating efforts made by charitable organizations such as churches, service organizations, Toys for Tots, and others, such as Commission on Children and Families.
   There was a lot of duplication of giving, but now a computer database has eliminated that.
   "People are really stepping up and saying they are interested in helping us out this year," said Comini.
   "Businesses already know that the economy is down, so they're being helpful by supporting it through the drop boxes. So we're hopeful that the community will respond and donate," said Carol Weston, board member of Commission on Children and Families.
   "People have been even more willing to give because they know that it is coordinated," Weston said.
   Church groups, organizations, families, and anyone else can donate in many ways. There are drop boxes for Toys for Tots, gifting trees at local banks and Pioneer Memorial Hospital, and drop boxes for gifts, clothing, and non-perishable food at many business locations around Prineville.
   These are not the only ways to help, however. Sponsorships may be arranged through Commission on Children and Families to support an entire family with gifts or food.
   "We encourage groups that are covering Christmas for a family to put notes in their boxes about their group," Comini said.
   Karole Stockton, a volunteer with Commission on Children and Families, said that seniors seldom ask for anything. She suggests that some families have seniors and even though it's nice for them to receive a gift, it's also important to them to be able to give as well. Giving fruit or something like that is a good way to provide a senior or anyone with a gift they can share with others.
   "This community is so great about pulling together when the chips are down," said Stockton. "We've been doing this for years and years and have never been disappointed."
   Volunteers and those with questions may contact the Commission on Children and Families at 447-3260.
   Gifting trees will soon be located at:
   Home Federal Bank, 555 NW Third St.
   Bank of the Cascades, 103 NW Third St.
   South Valley Bank, 1570 NE Third St.
   U.S. Bank, 221 NE Third St.
   Wells Fargo Bank, 220 NW Third St.
   Pioneer Memorial Hospital, 1201 NE Elm St.
   Drop Boxes for "Toys for Tots" at:
   Coldwell Banker, 750 NW Third St.
   Drop Boxes for new, unwrapped toys and clothing, and non-perishable food at:
   City of Prineville, 387 NE Third St.
   Meadowlakes Restaurant/Golf Course, 300 SW Meadowlakes Dr.
   Les Schwab Tire Store, 1250 NE Third St.
   Pine Theater, 214 NE Main St.
   Crestview Cable TV, 350 NE Dunham
   Crook County Courthouse, 300 NE Third St.
   Prineville Fire Hall, 500 NE Belknap
   Prineville Pizza Hut, 1505 NE Third St.
   Robberson Ford, 2289 NE Third St.
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