ETCETERA - Milton-Freewater drive yields boxes brimming with food, Christmas spirit

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Milton-Freewater Ministerial Association's annual food basket drive brought out the best in people who made it a record year of giving and community participation.

"The community of Milton-Freewater really outdid itself this year in participation,"said the Rev. Steve Lyons.

Donations of food, funds and strong arms were provided from many new organizations, which means they were able to deliver a greater number of boxes to those in need than ever before.

"All of the assistance is greatly appreciated because the box total increased from 184 households to 204. The number of boxes is 316. The total number of people served went from 767 to 919.

"The community really stepped up to help provide a great Christmas dinner for our friends in the community," Steve added.

Don Davis with the Milton-Freewater School District organized a school food drive and students from Grove Elementary School won with the most food collected.

Rotary and Kiwanis Club members challenged one another to a contest in which the Kiwanis group won from bringing in the most tonnage.

They had fun with it and helped the community's box recipients become the real winners from these contests, Steve said.

They generally have about 200 people who "help in the wonderfully rewarding joy of blessing our neighbors," Steve said. They met on Dec. 19 at the Milton-Freewater Seventh-Day Adventist Fellowship Hall to box the foods.

"It has been characterized as ‘organized chaos' but it works each year as all the boxes are delivered within a few short hours," he said..

Steve said kudos go to the hardworking servants of the community from Milton-Freewater schools; Rotary and Kiwanis clubs; CROSS Christian Youth Group; Crop Walk; Blue Mountain Growers; United Methodist Women Association; Grace Presbyterian Women's Association; St. James Episcopal Church; Ingle Chapel Women's Auxiliary; LeFore Farms; Bethel Conservative Baptist Church; First Christian Church; and the Safeway store for "super price support."

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More holiday cheer was spread through efforts of the Walla Walla Valley Early Learning Coalition to local children in need, said Susan Prudente, assistant coordinator for marketing and communications with the WWVELC.

ELC had some generous grant dollars it needed to infuse into the community by Dec. 31 and so it donated 500 children's books to local Toys for Tots program, coordinated by Beth Swanson, president of The Moms' Network.

Each gift request from children up to 8 years old through Toys for Tots will receive an age-appropriate new book as an added surprise, Susan said. It also donated 150 baby board books to the local Books for Babes program led by longtime Edison Elementary teacher and child advocate Kay Barga. These will be distributed to mothers of newborns at hospitals in town this winter and spring.

"It is never too early to support a culture of literacy in our community," Susan said.

An unexpected, anonymous gift came into ELC in late fall. The ELC Governance Board decided to use the generous amount to remove obstacles to learning for Walla Walla's neediest children by providing winter coats, mittens, hats, gloves, scarves and boots.

Many ELC partner agencies, Blue Ridge - ECEAP, Vista Hermosa Rural Library, Children's Home Society, Family Medical Center,YWCA, The Ark Day School, Washington State Migrant Council and Commitment to Community provided information for children and families they serve and requests were fulfilled immediately.

Altogether, 335 total items were distributed throughout the Walla Walla Valley just in time for winter weather and the holiday break.

"This is truly the spirit of the season," Susan said. She added that local retailers Walmart and K-Mart supported the winter campaign with quality products, discounts and outstanding customer service.

For more information, see www.earlylearningwallawalla.org, find them Facebook or call 509-527-4453.

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Shirley Waite, a fan of Reader's Digest, spotted mention of Walla Walla in the December-January issue.

The "Word Power" feature, a quiz on words with repeating sets of letters, said, "Whether you're from Walla Walla, Washington, or Wagga Wagga, Australia, we double-dare you to master this month's quiz - all about words with repeating sets of letters.

Herself a writer and writing teacher, Shirley is at work on a Lenten devotion booklet for her church.

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The Downtown Walla Walla Foundation annual Gingerbread House competition has winners. A replica of the historic Dayton Depot edged out other entries in the professional category, built by Bonnie Blum and Chef Eric Naftzger from Park Plaza Retirement. In the amateur division, Colleen Monette won for her recreation of the Power House Theatre.

The gingerbread houses were created by professionals at local business, including Olive Marketplace & Cafe; Frosted - A Cupcake Shop; Marcus Whitman Hotel/WWCC Culinary Arts Program; and Kristi Kiefel for Power House Theatre.

Amateur entries also came from Emily Wickham; Symone Leal and Rachel Nicholas; Elijah and Sage Kline; and Girl Scout Troop 3717.

Votes were cast by donating money to the favorite entry. The gingerbread houses were set up in the Marcus Whitman Hotel lobby during December. Downtown Walla Walla Foundation partnered with Blue Mountain Community Foundation, collecting funds, keeping a running tally and managing the donation to Catholic Charities, reported Jennifer Northam with DWWF.

The Professional entry with the most votes/money donated at the end of the competition won a trophy to display all year.

The $660 raised in voting funds will benefit Catholic Charities for local Teen Homelessness Outreach. BMCF matched up to $202. DWWF judged the amateur entries and the winner received a dinner for two at The Marc.

Etcetera appears in daily and Sunday editions. Annie Charnley Eveland can be reached at annieeveland@wwub.com or afternoons at 526-8313.

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