Donate This Holiday Season

The Giving Plate provides a perfect opportunity to give back


The holiday season is a festive time to spread love and cheer. Yet, some citizens in Bend can’t afford to celebrate the holidays in the traditional way and support their families simultaneously. During this break from school it’s a great time to donate to local organizations, give back to the community and help families in need. One such organization is The Giving Plate, the largest food pantry in Central Oregon. The Giving Plate receives nonperishable foods, toys and clothes all year around, but during the holiday season they get the most donations—which allow them to give families the opportunity to participate in the gift giving season. 

The Giving Plate was created in April 2010 by Gary and Debra Kelso. Their goal was to serve people in the community in the midst of a poor economic time, when unemployment rates skyrocketed. Although the program started because of this crisis, the Kelsos realized that more people needed help—and they were not going to give up on those in need. The Giving Plate has expanded across Oregon and now helps around 3,500 people a month. Over the course of 12 years, they have helped over 76,000 families. 

The Giving Plate has many smaller programs that allow families to donate to those in need. The holidays are the busiest times for donations and demand, so creating smaller programs helps to organize all the donations. Some of these smaller programs are Holiday Meals, Jingle Makeovers, and the Jingle Store—which aim to donate to specific causes.  

“I first volunteered at The Giving Plate in November 2021. I worked three hours every Thursday,” said Ann Hanson, a volunteer at The Giving Plate. “Seeing the families, hearing the stories, just makes it all so special. The Giving Plate is centered around bringing love and hope and one of their key phrases is that we are ‘feeding the hungry with compassion and hospitality.’ Guests of The Giving Plate very often say they feel seen when they visit,” said Hanson.

The Holiday Meals program helped over 1,245 families last year, and has only expanded this season. For Thanksgiving, people donated turkeys and sides in order to let families share these special times with their loved ones around their own tables. The Jingle Makeover collects monetary donations every year and randomly picks six lucky families to receive $2,500 to start the new year off strong. The Jingle Store allows children to come and choose donated gifts to give to their families. In 2021, over 720 children came to pick out gifts for their loved ones. 

This holiday season of 2022-2023, The Giving Plate has seen a 60% increase in hungry people coming to the pantry from last year. Grocery store prices have inflated 11% in July from the previous year. This increase affects food pantries, since more people aren’t able to afford food at the store which leads them to pantries. Donations are climbing, but haven’t been able to keep up with the demand. Pamera Patellen, a volunteer at The Giving Plate, said that the amount of food each family receives every week “varies a lot.” This is based on the total number of donations The Giving Plate receives, and the amount of families that need assistance. Patellen described how the volunteers are getting prepared to organize the food and toys for the holiday season.

“We have an event at the convention center that children and families sign up for. They come and get Santa bucks, and they use those for gifts and food,” said Patellen. Patellen helped at this event and is super excited to assist families during this holiday season. 

Families inside Summit High School are also participating in the generosity of giving. 

“My family and I have always donated gifts to the Jingle Store. It allows kids to pick out gifts for their parents. I have been doing this since I was little, and I hope to continue forever, because it is such a great feeling giving back,” said Summit junior, Peyton Green. 

“Me and my family think it’s very important to give back to the community and show our gratitude for our blessings. We decided to donate money to the jingle makeovers because we wanted families to have a fresh start to the new year,” said Summit junior, Jayn Willis.

If you’re interested in donating to The Giving Plate, providing presents at the convention center, donating to one of the smaller programs within The Giving Plate or dropping food off at the drive through It will make a huge difference. Give back to the community this season and help a family in need.