Contributions from Bob Lowry (pictured left below) & Steven V. Wilkinson (pictured right)
My recollection is that it started about 1988 with a relationship that Jim somehow connected with the then owners of Cartright’s Market in Walterville, later Schwartz Market. Jerry Schwartz always ‘an’ owner originally with his brother and then he later sold out to McKay’s Market [that was then in a fast acquisition mode of small local groceries, that it bought up and then spit out].
For as long as Jerry Schwartz was there, he was just remarkably generous, giving us the ‘cost + 10%’ rate Jim negotiated so basically we purchase some $140 in food and goods per family, for something closer to $80 in actual cost. Jerry loaded ALL the BOXES all for free and generally by himself starting usually about 2 am. Long beforehand, Jerry would be on the phone with all of his local grocer buddies, getting them all to save their PRODUCE boxes, 2/family, for about 40 families, so 80!
This latter is a critically important point, as while for reasons truly unknown, ‘we’ continually but archaically refer to what we pass out as “Food BASKETS” when in fact as you well know they are indeed “Food BOXES” each carrying some 25-30+#s of premium food and treats, and are no way just ‘baskets’ indeed !!
We were floundering after Jerry retired from McKays and the new owner had no interest. SOMEHOW Jim then got connected with the owner of the Red Apple Market and we were off again, with no end in sight. I don’t know the present actual cost but I’m recalling it was even less than before AND with the owners still not interested in our helping with the packing !! [He never asks nor even seems to expect any ‘payback’, so as I did again this year, when he’s there I make a point of asking him to open the liquor section early so I can buy a few in appreciation.
In contrast, when Jim was ramrodding the project as he did for some 30 years, unbeknownst to probably ANYone in the Club, Jim would dig into his own pocket to buy gift cards like to the Oregon Electric Station that he gave freely in his personal appreciation, never seeking reimbursement even though there was plenty of money to carry over !!
As to recipient groups, we started out hopscotching between Springfield elementary schools, the over to the Child Center where a member was a psychologist, the somehow/ some version of Lane County Mental Health which sent us to some pretty bizzarre/ semi-dangerous residences even way out in Marcola and in the Whitteaker District. We even donated one year with providing Christmas food boxes to needy college and University students. Finally, we landed at Dos Rios Elem. School in Springfield where member Sherry F. was the long-time Principal, also working directly with the counselors who ID’d needy families, which they truly are, and they also screened them pretty carefully to optimize the impact.
I personally view this as about the most important of our Club projects where 100% or our Club money and considerable effort goes each Christmastime to especially reach the local children who really need the treats AS WELL AS the frank encouragement and affirmation that there is indeed spontaneous ‘good’ out there [though they likely do not verbalize it that way].
We certainly can’t free them from poverty or even hunger, but we do shine a bright light of joy and happiness on the kids AND some relief plus hope on the parents who are often struggling so hard.