On December 17, the St. Mary’s Family Center was hopping with cowboys, cowgirls, students and maybe a few angels as they all gathered to put together Christmas food boxes for Pantry Partners Food Bank clients. The Bitterroot Back Country Horsemen come out in full force to put these food boxes together. They organized the products and set up an assembly line to fill the boxes. Students from Florence and Stevensville provided the legwork and brought the items to the boxes where they were placed. It is a well-tuned machine that has evolved over the years.
This year, Pantry Partners prepared 266 boxes for their clients. The people who would like a box have to sign up in advance at Pantry Partners. These include anyone from Bell Crossing, north of Victor, to Florence.
This year, one generous ‘Secret Santa’ donated enough money to buy 150 turkeys. This, along with other donations from the community, was enough to purchase all of the turkeys and hams without using any Pantry money, according to Dawn Richard, manager of Pantry Partners.
The number of people receiving boxes is down about 20 this year but even more encouraging is the lower number of people being served by Pantry Partners. “The numbers are about 30 percent less than we’ve had in the past,” said Richard. “There are more people working, and that is fabulous!”
The boxes contain everything needed for Christmas dinner, from turkey and ham to potatoes, carrots, celery, and brownie mixes. There was even a table with unusual items, such as mandarin oranges or water chestnuts, that are not normally in the box but that someone might want for their meal. There were even pumpkins from Burnt Fork Market for people who wanted the freshest of pies.
As the people lined up outside the Family Center to wait for their boxes, Santa Claus made an appearance. The jolly old elf looked around at boxes and you could tell, he was thinking he might need to employ the Back Country Horsemen and the students if the elves ever went on strike.