Executive Director, Jean Wieman and Deputy Director Eric Mager with a selection of donated produce. The community has donated hundreds of pounds of produce in the past six weeks, including store-bought and home-grown. North Whidbey Help House staff are preparing for the annual summer food drive on July 13.                                (Photo by Maria Matson/Whidbey News-Times)

Executive Director, Jean Wieman and Deputy Director Eric Mager with a selection of donated produce. The community has donated hundreds of pounds of produce in the past six weeks, including store-bought and home-grown. North Whidbey Help House staff are preparing for the annual summer food drive on July 13. (Photo by Maria Matson/Whidbey News-Times)

Help House ‘ Christmas in July’ event is Saturday

It’s that time of year again — the summertime months between the major food-based holidays, when donations slow down but community needs don’t change, so the North Whidbey Help House is hosting its annual “Christmas in July” food drive.

Help House staff also want to spread the word that fresh produce is needed and accepted, including those grown by local gardeners.

Too much zucchini? Rhubarb? Tomatoes? They’ll take it, Executive Director Jean Wieman said.

The Christmas in July drive is 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, July 13, with an open house/BBQ event 2-4 p.m.

At a council meeting this week, Oak Harbor City Councilwoman Beth Munns spoke about the need that Help House has during the summer, which is the reason behind the Christmas in July event.

She said people tend to be busy during the warm months and don’t give as much.

“They don’t think about it until it comes Thanksgiving and Christmas,” she said.

In the past, the Christmas in July drive has brought in between $15,000 and $20,000. Her goal this year is to bring in 10,000 pounds of food, Wieman said.

Donations of fresh produce have been increasing, Wieman said. Partnerships with Island County Public Health’s Grow-a-Row program and local schools have helped increase the supply of fresh fruits and vegetables, and so have local gardening enthusiasts.

People may not know that the Help House can accept home-grown produce, Wieman said.

“We’re getting the word out slowly but surely,” she said. “I guess people didn’t think we could take it…Produce is produce.”

Executive Director Jean Wieman sorts through fresh produce. (Photo by Maria Matson/Whidbey News-Times)

Executive Director Jean Wieman sorts through fresh produce. (Photo by Maria Matson/Whidbey News-Times)

And produce is expensive, she said, so those donations are very welcome, even if others wouldn’t touch the surplus bounty.

“You know when your neighbors see you with a zucchini and they run? We’ll take it,” she said.

Right now, it’s rhubarb season, so they’ve been getting lots of that, but also received many fresh greens, plums, apples, Asian pears, grapes and more.

Wieman said their numbers are up compared to last year. Just in the past six weeks, they’ve received over 300 pounds of fresh produce, she said.

“People have been generous,” she said.

“Our clients are very appreciative of having the fresh pulled-out-of-the ground stuff. It tastes different.”

“Tastes better.”

Help House’s service area is northern Whidbey Island from Deception Pass to Bakken Road in Greenbank.

Where to drop off your donations:

  • Donations for the Christmas in July drive are accepted at the Help House.
  • Non-perishable food items or money donations are accepted at multiple locations, including: Whidbey Island Bank-Bayshore, Whidbey Island Bank-Midway Boulevard, Navy Federal Credit Union, Alaska USA Federal Credit Union, Koetje Property Management, Coldwell Banker Koetje Real Estate, Land Title and Escrow, Tradewinds Insurance office, The BBQ Joint, Peoples Bank – Oak Harbor, Ace Hardware, Best Western and Candlewood Suites.
  • There will also be a collection 4-7 p.m., July 23-24 at Haggen.

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