Every Christmas, the employees of the Kenai Peninsula Borough adopt a few families for a few weeks.
For the duration of the holiday season, the borough employees gather the ingredients for a Christmas dinner as well as food for the rest of the winter break for the schools and anything else that employees may donate. Those donations go to several families in need, identified by the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s Students in Transition program.
Lauri Lingafelt, one of the borough employees who helps organize the food drive, said the borough has been doing the drive for at least 15 years.
“We get together and try to provide a Christmas meal for the families, and we try to provide some extra food for the holidays, like the goodies you would expect around Christmas,” Lingafelt said. “(The employees) always come up with some good ideas. One year, some employees helped the families get some firewood that would last them through the winter.”
Kelly King, the coordinator for the Students in Transition program, said the borough employees communicate about what needs to be obtained. The drive is primarily committed to the Christmas dinner, but there is almost always more donated, Lingafelt said.
The drive organizers place donation boxes in several offices, but donations come in from a variety of different sources. Sometimes people just choose to donate cash; others will buy something unprompted, Lingafelt said.
It’s a bit like the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree gift drive. The borough employees don’t know much about the families except their cooking situation, allergies and ages of the children. But even that is enough to prompt spontaneous gift-giving.
“We only commit to Kelly with food, but 99 percent of the time, people come back saying, ‘I got this for the kid, and this, and this,’” Lingafelt said. “People will come back with ideas. We had one lady give a Christmas tree yesterday.”
Lingafelt said the drive was a good way for the borough employees to come together, but said it was important the focus stay on the families.
“We work with a good group of people, and as soon as we send out the email, we’re inundated with calls and responses,” Lingafelt said. “But it’s really all about the families.”
The borough’s food drive is one among similar efforts across the peninsula during the holiday season. The Toys for Tots drive, sponsored by the Kenai Chamber of Commerce, broke its record this year with more than 2,300 donations, said Johna Beech, the executive director of the Kenai Chamber of Commerce.
“We want to thank everyone for their donations, that’s been a huge effort on the part of the community,” Beech said at the joint Kenai and Soldotna chambers of commerce luncheon Wednesday.
In Nikiski, the North Peninsula Recreation Center has been receiving donations since October. Tammy Berdahl, the recreation supervisor, said the center continually takes tubs full of donations over to the North Star United Methodist Church in Nikiski for its food pantry.
“It seemed like people were exceptionally generous this year,” Berdahl said. “We did a few events to try to promote it. We had our costume run in October to try to encourage people who bought food for the food drive to come and donate it.”
Most of the businesses in Nikiski contribute to the church’s food pantry around the holidays, she said. It’s one way to keep the donations local and provide the most help to Nikiski families as possible, she said. The North Peninsula Recreation Center will be closed for Christmas on Dec. 24 and 25, but those wishing to donate may take it directly to the church.
“We just like doing our small part,” Berdahl said.
Reach Elizabeth Earl at firstname.lastname@example.org.