Help lines up: Anticipating the season of giving

The holiday lighting ceremonies in our communities (details on page A1) are truly something to look forward to, for the enjoyment they provide and the way they bring communities together.

There is much to do at these events, and organizers put a great deal of giving spirit into holiday lights events staged for the public to enjoy.

And this is the time of year to let other lights shine as well:

n For starters, the annual Hood River Christmas Project drive is under way, and it can always use more help in its intensive efforts to collect toys and groceries for needy families and seniors in Hood River County. It’s all gearing up for Dec. 21-22 distribution, a week later than years past.

Christmas Project is a true community project that serves thousands of needy people each year, and it relies on people who are willing to give of their time and energy. Volunteers are needed to help with registration and other tasks. If you want to get involved, or you need the project’s help, turn to page B7 for details. Food donation barrels are located all over the county, as an example of just one easy way to help.

n Meanwhile, Hood River Valley High School students are preparing for their annual, and expansive, canned food drive for FISH and the Christmas Project. The school will stage its annual food drive rally on Friday, and history shows us that the students enjoy both competing with each other and knowing that they are serving a bigger purpose. Be prepared for yet another energetic food drive over the next two weeks; have some cans, or a few dollars, ready when a team of smiling teens comes to your door or works a shift in front of a local supermarket.

n Stores have already started stockpiling $10 and $15 grocery bags you can buy and leave as donations to the food bank. The bags are stored and distributed for the holidays.

n The Hood River Warming Shelter is back for its fourth season, providing a place to stay on a cold night. What started out as a freezing-nights-only endeavor shifted in 2011 to seven nights a week from December to March, increasing the need for volunteers and donations. Under the guidance of a hard-working local committee, the shelter is gearing up for its 2012 start on Saturday. Six Hood River churches take turns throughout the winter, for a week at a time, hosting the shelter.

An old Christmas song talks of joy and substance in “bleak midwinter,” but that phrase is not always a poetic one, for as it describes daily reality and for the hungry and homeless among our neighbors.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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