100 dinners for Christmas

By Beacon Staff

One of the most memorable times at Christmas often revolves around holiday meals with family.

Whether funny, somber, or heartwarming, we all have some sort of holiday meal memories to fall back on when times are tough. Falling back on memories of a Christmas with little or no food isn’t something you’d wish on anyone.

Being hungry with no food in the house is tough regardless of the date. On Christmas, it’s especially hard.

That’s where hometown hero Jan Vonlindern comes in. All year long, Jan and her band of volunteers serve up dozens of boxes of food each week. This past Thanksgiving, the food bank provided almost 80 families with Thanksgiving meals.

At Christmas, it gets a bit more expensive. Turkeys, even on sale, don’t come cheap. In mid-2006, just weeks after becoming officially chartered, the Rotary Club of Columbia Falls started the process of funding a donation to the food bank for Christmas baskets that year. In 2007, they’ve done it again, covering a substantial portion of the expenses to purchase food for the baskets to cover items not already donated.

Rotary Club of Columbia Falls President Mark Riffey has the honor of presenting the Club’s “big check” to Jan Vonlindern at a December Rotary Club of Columbia Falls meeting. (Photo by Norma Reynolds)

Yesterday, Columbia Falls Rotarians joined Jan’s crew to fill 100 boxes with food for Christmas dinners. Dinners for folks who might have nothing, or might simply have had a run of bad luck and need a break while they get back on their feet.

Boxes with numbers on the end tell how many people are in each family. That tells you how many cans of beans or olives, and how many boxes of stuffing to put in that box. They’re just numbers…until it hits you that each number represents a neighbor. Someone who lives in your town. A grandma, a child, a mom or dad working 2 jobs, or a junior at CFHS. People, not numbers. My rough in-my-head total of Columbia Falls family members being fed by these 100 meals was between 330 and 350.

Depending on which survey you believe, that’s between 5 to 8% of the population of Columbia Falls.

335 to 350 people is hard to put a finger on, so let me try to illustrate it. It’s more people than are in the Columbia Falls High School graduating class – in any year. It’s enough people to fill between 55 and 58 minivans (6 per car). If every hole on a golf course had a foursome, there would be fewer golfers on the course than the number of people who depend on the food bank every week. 335 people in individual vehicles at the City Brew driver thru would form a line that stretches past 13 football fields.

It takes a lot of work, food and coordination to create a smooth running ship that provides food every week, but that doesn’t seem to slow Jan and her volunteers down. They need help year round.

If you need help, know someone who does, want to volunteer, or want to donate to the Columbia Falls Food Bank, call Jan at 892-0241. The food bank is located at 82 Railroad St. E. in C-Falls. To mail a donation, address your envelope to Columbia Falls Food Bank, P.O. Box 1081, Columbia Falls, MT 59912.

The Rotary Club of Columbia Falls meets at the Back Room at noon on Wednesday. Prospective members are welcome to stop in and see if the Club is right for you. Rotary is an international organization of local community service clubs. You can learn more about Rotary at this link (to Rotary.org).