Monday, June 17, 2019
Bagging Christmas
Pam Rheinschild deposits a few more grocery bags packed and ready to go.
Saturday, December 15, 2018


Red and green garbage bags covered the floor of the Queen of the Hills Room at the Community Campus Friday afternoon.

But their contents contained anything but garbage.

Instead, the bags—which weren’t easy to find in Christmas colors--contained what are sure to be treasures for 800 Wood River Valley children under 18 years of age come Christmas morning.

Brandee Smith’s child Lark is the youngest—and cutest—Holiday Baskets volunteer, according to the T-shirt.

Realtors involved with Sun Valley Realtors Give journeyed to Twin Falls last Thursday where they spent about $20,000 on soccer balls, Legos, Barbie dolls, clothing and other gifts for children whose families are having a tough go of it.

The bags will be handed out to their families, along with food bags full of holiday foodstuffs, as part of the annual Holiday Baskets program.

“We pretty much clean Target out every year,” said Brandee Smith, the program director. “Their racks look pretty sad by the time we’re finished. Of course, we do send them a list of items so they know ahead of time what we need.”

Realtors figure they’re providing Holiday Baskets for 1,700 Blaine County residents this year.

A volunteer made the train set, which will add to the merriment when families pick up their Holiday Baskets today.

And that took muscle power Friday as a group of Realtors from Sotheby’s packed 325 reusable shopping bags full of foodstuffs for a holiday meal.

They stuffed the bags with potatoes from bag upon bag of Idaho russets lining the wall, as well as carrots and onions and bags of dried pinto beans and boxes of lard and hot chocolate topping the tables.

Rice and Maseca corn masa went into bags designated for Hispanic families, while green beans, turkey stuffing and cranberry sauce went into bags destined for homes that preferred a Pilgrim-style meal.

The Realtors bought the nonperishable items from Atkinsons’ Markets, stuffing them in a shopping bag supplied by Albertsons. Each bag also contained a $25 gift card from Albertson’s for perishable items.

Dave Doub adds onions to the bag.

Families will get one or more bags, depending on the size of the family.

Dentists have donated toothbrushes for the gift bags. Kids groups, such as Little River Preschool, have held book drives. And the motorcyclists involved with this year’s Toy Run not only collected toys but gave an $8,000 donation to be spent on toys and clothing.

“Parents tell us what their children need most in the way of winter coats or other clothing, and then we try to fill that need,” Smith said. “We just want to make sure kids have a great Christmas. And, of course, this relives some of the stress of the holidays for their parents.”

Those coming to pick up their holiday baskets will be greeted with a festive affair with the windows of the room painted with snowmen, rampaging reindeer, the green Grinch and other holiday scenes.

The grocery bags and gift bags will cover the floor by the time the Realtors are finished.

A train rambling through a winter village is guaranteed to capture the attention of the children. Each child will also be given a bag full of small toys and candy to spell them until Christmas.

“We have hundreds of volunteers working on this in various capacities,” said Smith. “They start signups on Veteran’s Day then we work until pickup day. But it’s something we plan for year-round.”

Of course, the requests for donations also start up as soon as one Holiday Basket drive is done. To donate, visit

“We’ve been doing this since 2003, but I think it’s been going on for 30 years,” said Smith. “Pulling this together is my favorite part of my job. Seeing the kids come in, the smiles on their faces, reminds us all why we give of our time and money to the program.”


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