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Oak Harbor spreads cheer around

Christmas trees, tons of gifts and good cheer dominate the holiday season, but many remember that it’s also a good time to help those less fortunate.

One of the best ways to do that is to donate to local food banks.

Jean Wieman, executive director of Help House, said donations have been steady this season. The local food bank received a boost Tuesday morning when New Leaf in Oak Harbor donated nearly 9,000 items collected during their annual food drive. Included was enough Ramen noodles to fill a room.

Chad Rodarmel, grounds project manager for New Leaf, said this year’s food drive collected more than was collected last year.

“We’re pleased that we beat our own goal from last year,” Rodarmel said. Last year, employees from New Leaf collected more than 6,000 food items.

Wieman said she is always encouraged by the community support that Help House receives.

“I can never say how much this community amazes me,” Wieman said.

She said Help House is expecting even more donations from local schools and churches. She added that some of the schools in the Oak Harbor School District decided to wait until the spring to hold a food drive. She said that is good, because donations can be thin in spring.

With the donated food, she said Help House should assist between 575 and 600 families this Christmas. That equates to helping out approximately 1,900 people this December.

Residents can make a food donation to Help House during business hours. It is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m.

Coupeville residents also have a place to donate food benefiting families living on Central Whidbey Island.

Gifts from the Heart in Coupeville is accepting donations to help families in the area. It helps approximately 45 families in Coupeville and 20 families in Greenbank.

Molly Hughes, president of Gifts from the Heart, said students from Coupeville Elementary School recently donated 900 items.

Since moving into their new facility on North Main Street, the food bank now offers refrigerated items. Hughes said the bank received a donation of turkey hindquarters, which is something that single people enjoy. The bank is also giving out turkeys and hams to families for Christmas.

Because Christmas falls late in the month, Gifts from the Heart is changing the times it distributes food. Families can pick up food on the second and third Wednesdays in December rather than the usual second and fourth Wednesdays.

Donations can be made by dropping food off at Whidbey Island Bank in Coupeville, Prairie Center, Post Office, Coupeville United Methodist Church and the Honey Bear. Donations can be sent to Gifts from the Heart, PO Box 155, Coupeville, WA 98239.

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