One of the many blessings of living in Boundary County is that the theme of neighbors helping neighbors amps up during the holiday season; many people work hard and give generously to ensure that no matter what the situation, anyone needing assistance isn’t left empty handed.
The Care-N-Share program began 35 years ago when local resident, Linda Lederhos, was working for Panhandle Health. “Zion Bank had a toy-making contest, and when it was over they asked if any of my WIC clients could use the extra toys,” Linda shares. The contest lasted two years, and once it had ended, Linda turned to her friends. “There was an ongoing need, so I called some of my girlfriends and asked if they had any gently used toys that we could refurbish and pass on to people who needed them.” From that beginning, Care-N-Share has grown into a steady stream of toys, clothes and money donations from many generous people.
And all of these donations have been passed along to thousands of local children. “Our community is just wonderful when it comes to helping people in need!” Linda says. Donations may be dropped off at the Bamboo Craft Room, Mountain West and Wells Fargo banks, and the Boundary County Courthouse.
For those needing assistance, Care-N-Share enrollment dates are from November 1 to December 4. Applications are available on the Care-N-Share program’s Facebook page or by stopping in at the Bamboo Craft room, located north of Three Mile at 35 Automation Lane. For those wanting to help, Linda leaves tags with individual children’s gender, age, gift request or clothing size at Trinity Lutheran and United Methodist churches and for more details, such as sponsoring a child or family, people can contact her at 208.290.1483.
Anyone who misses the Care-N-Share enrollment can sign up for the Christmas Tree of Joy program; applications will be accepted December 4 through 15, with gift dispersal on December 22. Joy Schmitz, owner of the local Verizon Wireless, started this outreach two years ago after learning that the gap between the Care-N-Share deadline and Christmas was still leaving some families in need. “I felt terrible because some kids weren’t going to be getting presents, and that wasn’t OK with me!” Joy sets up a tree in her store, decorated with paper “ornaments” that have information about each child, along with what they’d like from Santa. Community members are invited to take as many tags as they’d like, purchase and wrap the indicated gifts, then return them to the Verizon store with the tags attached. This effort brought Christmas to more than 40 children the first year and more than 100 children the next.
And after seeing a desire among the children to give in return, Joy put together a workshop last year for them to pick out a present or two so they had something to put under the tree for their parents. Children were asked to bring five or 10 cans of food to earn one or two tickets to the workshop. Local businesses donated gifts or money for gifts; Joy reports that the event turned out to be a really fun time for the children who attended. “The best part was watching the kids wrap their presents and seeing how happy they were to leave with something to give to their parents,” she says. Local realtors from the Selkirk Association of Realtors participate in the annual Giving Tree Program which works with children’s advocacy programs such as the Bonners Ferry Head Start to help supply local families with gifts and much needed items during the holiday season. Larson’s has served as the location for the Giving Tree for several years now. “Applications are sent to the Selkirk Association of Realtors’ main office in Sandpoint, but then tags are filled out and brought back up for the tree here” said Kirsten Madden of Century 21 Realty, “and those tags are for local families only. All gifts and other items collected in Bonners Ferry go to
Boundary County families.” Members of the community can help with this program also by choosing tags from the tree, located near the rear entrance at Larson’s, purchasing the gifts and returning them to the store. Realtors from both Boundary and Bonner Counties work together to deliver the items to referring agencies who then give them out to the families. For questions or more details, contact the Selkirk Association of Realtors' office at 208.265.2227.
To participate in this year’s workshop, food donations can be brought to the Verizon Store until December 8, with the workshop tentatively set for December 16; date and location of the workshop will be printed on the tickets. If anyone would like to donate gifts or money for this event or the Christmas Tree of Joy, please contact Joy at 208.267.7100.
The Boundary Community Hospital has again invited the BoCo Backpacks program to decorate this year’s Tree of Care as a fundraiser for the group. BoCo Backpacks provides food kits to local Head Start, elementary and middle school children who don’t have adequate meal resources during the weekend. The Tree of Care is set up in BCH’s outpatient waiting room downstairs and will feature ornaments decorated by local fifth-grade students. The ornaments may be purchased for $5 each at the hospital; the BoCo Backpack ladies will also have a table at the Holiday Craft Fair at the fairgrounds on December 1 and 2. All funds go toward putting together nutritious food kits that are given weekly to the program’s enrolled children.
BoCo Backpacks chair, Shirley Anderson, shared a statistic that one in every six children in North Idaho’s school food programs don’t have adequate nourishment for the three-day weekends; this group works very hard to ensure that children who fall into that statistic in Boundary County are well taken care of. “We give out a tremendous amount of food … and have received tremendous support from the community for the BoCo Backpack program,” states Shirley, citing generous support from many local groups and businesses. Due to increased enrollments this year, donations are not keeping pace, and even with grants that provide most of their annual budget, the program is facing a shortfall. Anyone wishing to donate is encouraged to call Shirley at 208.255.9847.
‘Tis the season for giving; if you’re looking for a great way to help your neighbors this holiday, contact Linda, Joy or Shirley. Whatever your contribution, know you’ll be putting a smile on a child’s—and their parent’s—face.