After feeding more than 500 families for Thanksgiving, the Vista del Camino Food Bank wants to do the same for Christmas, but it still needs help gathering gifts and goods for needy teenagers.
The food bank has plenty of food for the holidays thanks to groups, businesses and schools that did food drives, said Rita Koppinger, Vista del Camino human services manager.
“We are doing pretty good,” she said. “What we need are basic items. Peanut butter, cereal and spaghetti sauce are always in demand.”
The food bank also is collecting grocery store gift cards so families can purchase a turkey or ham.
Vista del Camino fed 516 families for Thanksgiving, and it hopes to help just as many for Christmas, Koppinger said. So far, the food bank has collected enough toys to give out to younger children, she said.
“What we need now are things that would be more suitable for older children — teens,” she said, suggesting movie tickets and gift cards. “Of course teenagers are hard to buy for, but they are usually happy with gift cards to Target or department stores where they can buy CDs or clothes.”
The food bank also is collecting blankets and linens because families are usually short on those items, she said.
In addition to donations from the food bank, local donors have been matched with 479 families through the “Adopt-a-Family” program to provide families with food and presents for their children.
Koppinger said she is always touched by the thank-you notes she receives.
“There are no words to thank you for saving our Christmas,” one person wrote. “Please know that to me this was truly the most wonderful thing I have ever received at Christmas time.”
Vista del Camino does not reveal names of the people who use their services.
A woman wrote that the program gave her children something she couldn’t — a visit from Santa.
“Thank you so much for all of you who gave at this time. You have made three children still believe in Santa and you have given a broken-hearted woman the opportunity to smile and laugh with my children.”
Community donations received prior to Thanksgiving helped feed 341 of those families, she said. The other 175 families received food from groups that signed up to be individual donors.
Supplies at the food bank were down from previous years, largely because its temporary location made it difficult for people to reach, Koppinger had said previously.
In an effort to help the food bank gather food, owners of Elliot’s Diamonds & Design and Clarke & Clarke Asian Antiques and Tribal Art placed collection bins near their stores in downtown Scottsdale.
“Personally, I think people were pretty generous,” said Kimberly Calvetti, co-owner of Elliot’s. “A guy came in with five $10 certificates, that was pretty impressive. A lady made a check out for $100, which we passed along to (the food bank).”
A similar program reached out to 139 Scottsdale senior citizens this year, said Melissa Forte, human services representative for Via Linda Senior Center.
The “Adopt-a-Senior” program matches individuals with donors, and then city social workers and staff deliver the gifts before Christmas.
The program, in its 10th year, helps seniors get things they need such as sweaters, pajamas and low-vision items like large-print books, Forte said. Donations usually cost between $50 and $65, she added.
The center has already distributed the gifts for this year, and Forte said she has already started getting thank-you cards.
“They love the visit when we come in with all their presents and everything,” she said. “The greatest thing is to be able to go to deliver to them and make the contact. The holidays can be such a hard time for everybody.”
How to help
• Vista del Camino Food Bank is collecting food and gift donations 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays at 7375 E. Second St., Building 3. Checks also can be sent to that address. The ZIP code is 85251. Information: (480) 312-2323
• Via Linda Senior Center is collecting nonperishable food donations 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday at 10440 N. Via Linda. Information: (480) 312-5810.