The Christmas Express is about ready to roll, feeding families in Hermiston for its 46th year.

Staff from the Hermiston Police Department and other city departments gathered with their families Wednesday night at Thompson Hall on the Umatilla County Fairgrounds to put together about 500 food boxes. The boxes will be disbursed from the Agape House next week, Monday through Wednesday, to families that would most benefit.

Police Chief Jason Edmiston said, all together, about 100 pounds of food will be distributed per family, including bags of onions and potatoes donated by local growers, turkey, dry goods and canned food. In addition to the food donated by growers like the Columbia Basin Onion’s Alan Cleaver and the Walchli families for both produce and equipment, canned food collected with the help of local students in food drives and financial contributions from individual donors and groups like the Hermiston Rotary Club, which are used to buy additional food.

“I never knew how generous this community was until I took this over,” Edmiston said. “I can call any farmer and tell them what I need” and the next thing he knows, the need is met.

Christmas Express also spends between $8,000 and $13,000 each year for food.

Edmiston said he seeks bids on the other food goods, and this year the additional food was purchased through Walmart.

Members of Living Faith Church have also volunteered to help this year with presents for the children up to fifth grade in families that receive food boxes.

Schools and area churches also help to identify those in need of the donated food and gifts.

This is the second year that all city departments have joined the program. And city workers put the boxes together in two assembly lines, filling enough boxes, stacked six rows high, to fill 12 pallets.

Christmas Express began in 1969 when Dick Hodge, a local insurance agent, asked then-police chief Bob Shannon to help distribute leftover toys to children who may not have received gifts that year. The police department now coordinates the annual charity drive that distributes food boxes with a turkey and other staples to 500 local families in need, as well as gifts for children up to age 11 in those families.

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