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Editorial: Earn the name of community

KRIS HARMON prepares boxes for the arrival of canned food donations collected in the 2010 ELFF food drive. 	Chronicle file photo

KRIS HARMON prepares boxes for the arrival of canned food donations collected in the 2010 ELFF food drive. Chronicle file photo Photo by Mark Gibson.

If it seems as if we’ve just pushed away from the Thanksgiving table and December is already here, that’s because it’s true. Since November started on a Friday this year, the fourth Thursday of month was as late as it could possibly be.

So if the month feels a bit off because you haven’t cleaned up the turkey day leftovers before the change of the month, you may need a little reminder about an important event next week that may seem as if it’s coming up earlier than usual.

The ELFF canned food drive is always on the first Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of December, but this year those days fall a little earlier on the calendar, on Dec. 3 to 5.

The collections happen from 6 to 9 p.m. in different zones on different days: east The Dalles Tuesday, west The Dalles Wednesday and Dallesport Thursday.

ELFF stands for Everyone Loves a Fire Fighter and that must be true because, now in its 28th year, this is the biggest local food drive of the year.

The Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue Volunteer Association teams up with the Salvation Army and St. Vincent de Paul to help stock local food pantries in anticipation of providing food baskets for those in need.

Last year the drive reaped more than 28,000 units of food, covered 632 miles, and involved 172 ELFF collectors and 29 drivers — not to mention uncounted local residents who willingly raid their own pantries to fill bags with food for the hungry.

Without a doubt, it is an impressive effort to help alleviate hunger and a strong illustration of “Charity begins at home.”

With such a display of generosity, you’d think pantries would be well-stocked throughout the year, but the reality is that food insecurity continues to grow. In Wasco, Sherman and Hood River counties, Mid-Columbia Community Action served more than 650 households with a total of 1,955 individuals a month in 2006. By 2012, those figures had climbed to more than 1,000 households and 3,150 individuals a month, a 38 percent increase.

Community Action has another ongoing food drive underway partnering with local businesses.

This year, Safeway will be selling pre-packaged grocery meal bags for distribution to local food agencies. These bags are filled with nonperishable items most needed by the Regional Food Bank, including tuna, peanut butter, pasta, tomato sauce and canned vegetables. That drive continues through Dec. 25.

The bottom line here, is that our communities include many residents who might go hungry without help from local food pantries and other feeding programs like Community Meal and Bread and Blessings.

These programs are an important expression of compassion for those in need within our community.

Please take time to contribute to these programs, either in goods or money, now and in the months beyond Christmas.

You’ll not only be helping local folks eat better during the holidays and beyond, you’ll also be helping our area earn the name of community.

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