Easy ways to spread the holiday spirit across Bonners Ferry this season By Taylor Shillam | Photo courtesy BoCo Backpacks
’Tis the season for giving, and in Bonners Ferry, embracing the giving spirit is made easier each year, thanks to a community that celebrates supporting local neighbors in need.
When there are community members in need, it tends to be most apparent during the holiday season—fortunately, from supporting local charities to donating time or engaging in acts of kindness, giving back during the holiday season can take many forms and doesn’t have to cost a dime.
And in Bonners Ferry, annual programs like Care-N-Share and BoCo Backpacks' Christmas ornament sale make it even easier to participate in local giving. Both organizations have created opportunities for Bonners Ferry residents to give what they can, whether it be time, resources, or anything in between, and join together to spread some local joy throughout the holiday season.
2021 marked 40 years of the Care-N-Share program, and is led by Linda Lederhos. For decades, Bonners Ferry residents and local companies have donated money and time to help the Care-N-Share program provide gifts to children in need.
This year, the community began supporting its cause weeks before the arrival of the holidays.
“We were blessed by the 9B Quilters,” Linda shared on Facebook in October. “They donated over 70 quilts to our program … They will go to bless so many kids this holiday season. I can’t say thank you enough.”
Linda started the Care-N-Share program 40 years ago, when she worked at the Panhandle Health Clinic as the WIC coordinator. When she learned about a local contest searching for the right placement for a surplus of toys that holiday season, she found homes for the toys using her own client list.
The following year, she was approached by local moms to do it all over again. Without the contest supplying the toys, she got creative—this time, drawing from her circle of friends to gather donations of new and used toys.
The Care-N-Share program took off from there to become a 501c3 nonprofit organization. Four decades later, their mission remains the same: providing gifts to Bonners Ferry’s children in need at Christmastime.
Children are provided with gifts and clothing, depending on their unique needs. The program provides a need and wish list for local parents and does its best to fill those requests. Throughout the years, donations provided by the community have been a driving force behind the program. Along with many individual donations, the program receives ample support from local groups including the Bonners Ferry Rotary, Forest Service employees, Valley View Kids, 9B Quilters, Border Patrol and Customs, and many local individuals.
Without the donations received from local groups and individuals, the Care-N-Share program could not continue its mission. “We have so many groups and individuals that help by donating items and money, and without them the program could not continue,” Linda shared.
Local food distribution program BoCo Backpacks aims to support children across Boundary County who are affected by food insecurity. Each year, throughout the month of December, they hold a fundraiser in the form of a Christmas ornament sale. The ornaments are always unique and handcrafted by local students.
Last year, fifth graders from several local schools decorated the ornaments for the sale. Ornaments were sold and displayed locally, with all proceeds from the sale supporting the BoCo Backpack program in providing healthy foods to children in need across the county.
This November, BoCo Backpacks will begin preparations for the annual ornament sale, approaching the fifth-grade teachers in Boundary County to aid in crafting the ornaments, determining this year’s venue for ornament sale, and finding a tree to display them on, shared chairperson Shirley Anderson.
Throughout the school year, they also run the BoCo Food Program, which delivers food kits once a week to children across Boundary County. Just like their annual ornament fundraiser, it requires the support of local community members, businesses and organizations to make the food deliveries possible. With the help of the community, Boco Backpacks help battle food security, not only through the holidays but through the rest of the year.
This holiday season, look locally for your holiday cheer. One of the intrinsic pieces of holiday magic is that it tends to grow the more you give—and, undeniably, part of Bonners Ferry’s magic is its people, businesses, causes and community efforts that make a town a home.
With unique organizations that make it easier to come together and help neighbors in need, the opportunities are endless to engage with the local community this holiday season. Whether it’s supporting a local charity or nonprofit, shopping from a local business, or simply spreading the word about a holiday ornament sale or a toy drive like those from BoCo Backpacks and Care-N-Share, the acts that keep the giving spirit alive through the holidays don't need to be big to make an impact.