Pandemic Altering Christmas Basket Program

Applications Now Available As Plans Made For ‘Packing Week’ In December

While Christmas still sits at a distance on the 2020 calendar, organizers of the Rockbridge Christmas Baskets program are hard at work, planning to meet the needs of local households facing food insecurity this holiday season.

Longtime volunteer and board vice president Jamie Joyner describes the pace of their work: “Starting in the summer months, board members work with numerous community partners to assemble the contents of the ‘baskets’ (boxes, actually) which include many different kinds of nutritious foods, as well as educational and age-appropriate toys for children. This year, we are especially grateful to Kroger and CVS because they are working with us to supply much of the food we’ll need.”

The efforts typically culminate in a single “packing day” event in December, but of course, the pandemic has left little unchanged.

Audrey Hawkins, RCB board president, explained, “This year, to reduce risk to our volunteers and basket recipients, we are introducing a number of safety measures. Thanks to CornerStone Bank, we are using a ‘touchless’ distribution and submission system for our applications. Applications for baskets are available now at all three local branches. Use the drive-thru for easy pickup and drop-off. And they’re due back either to CornerStone or directly to the program to the P.O. box by Nov. 17.”

Given the many people in the community for whom packing is a tradition, Hawkins added, “The Virginia Horse Center is helping us by providing more time to get the boxes packed — so we can spread out our volunteers. This year, ‘packing week’ will run Dec. 14-19. Of course, that also means deliveries will be carried out over the course of several days, too. Later in the fall we’ll share how to sign up for a volunteer slot for packing.”

Hawkins stresses the need for volunteer cooperation at this year’s packing event. “We are using state health department directives to keep people safe with measures like hand sanitizer stations, cones, signage, safe distances marked with floor tape, masks, and face shields. Wearing a face covering properly will be 100 percent mandatory. We want volunteers to know that if wearing a mask isn’t possible for you, there are other critical ways to help Rockbridge Christmas Baskets this year. For instance, make a gift and spread the word that we’ll need extra financial support this year.”

Anticipating an increase in need within the community, Rockbridge Christmas Baskets began its fundraising early this year, with a “Christmas in August” mini-campaign. Communications chair Jen Andrews noted, “The community support last month was definitely encouraging — we’re so grateful to those who responded early. But we know we still face a lot of headwinds to help all the families in need and cover the extra expenses related to COVID-19 safety precautions. Honestly, to meet our mission this year, we’re going to need more help than ever — financial support and volunteer time.”

To learn more about this year’s packing event and to support Rockbridge Christmas Baskets, visit www.rockbridgechristmasbaskets.org. To make a gift or submit an application by mail, send the donation or application to Rockbridge Christmas Baskets, P.O. Box 1030, Lexington, VA 24450.

The News-Gazette

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