As Thanksgiving draws closer, many people are starting to think about supporting local charities for the holidays. But the giving season in the Yakima Valley isn’t limited to Yuletide generosity.
Operation Harvest is one such example of an annual event held each October to provide ways to give.
On Oct. 5, my Interact Club had the opportunity to volunteer at the 31st annual Operation Harvest.
The Interact Club is a community service club at Davis High School that holds service projects throughout Yakima. While volunteering for this event, I developed a whole new view of the Yakima Valley. Operation Harvest was my first time volunteering with such a large group working to achieve such a large goal.
Prior to that day, all I knew about Operation Harvest is that Yakima Valley residents in Yakima, West Valley and Terrace Heights place canned foods on their doorsteps, and that the Salvation Army picks them up and distributes them to those in need.
When I arrived at the Salvation Army on South Sixth Avenue in Yakima, I was surprised to see the large number of volunteers involved, especially youths and children. I was stationed at the end of a long assembly line, and my job was to place the donated food into boxes.
Vehicles filled to the brim with food were pouring in during the four hours that I was there. There were many volunteers sorting, packing and unloading food. Throughout the morning, the thing I heard the most from people was how unique our community is. There are few communities that work together for a common good, such as organizing a huge food drive for our local food banks. The remarkable thing I noticed was the large number of residents who participate by putting food on their doorsteps for collection.
There are between 300 and 400 volunteers who make this event possible. In my down time, I began to chat with the different volunteers around me. Allen Medina, who is in the Interact Club and is a senior at Davis, shared with me that he had been volunteering for Operation Harvest for several years.
“I used to get things from the Salvation Army when I was a kid too, so I might as well repay them for everything they have done,” Medina said .
The Salvation Army distributes the food from Operation Harvest to nine different food banks across our Valley, such as the Union Gospel Mission in Yakima. The food banks rely on the food to help supply those in need throughout the winter months.
While visiting with my fellow volunteers, I had the opportunity to talk with Mike Latimer and Patty Dion. It was their first time being co-chairs of Operation Harvest, although they have both been involved with the program in previous years through Downtown Rotary. While all three Yakima Rotary clubs put on Operation Harvest, Downtown Rotary plays the biggest role.
I also met Lisa Sargent, the programs and event director of the Salvation Army. She does a great job of making this event so prosperous. Without the hard work that Latimer, Dion and Sargent put into this event, it would not be so successful.
The willingness to give to those less fortunate is something that I’ve really started to admire about our community. I’ve been blessed enough to never have gone hungry a day in my life, but many do not have the privilege of saying that. Operation Harvest was a way for me to give back to my community, and to do a small part in a much larger picture.
• Samantha Valdez is a junior at Davis High School and a member of Yakima Herald-Republic’s Unleashed journalism program for high school students.