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Vancouver nonprofit, others assemble more than 1,000 gift bags for local caregivers

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
3 Photos
Ruth Cunningham helps assemble more than 1,000 gift bags at CDM Caregiving Services on Tuesday afternoon. The bags will be distributed to Clark County caregivers at the second annual Caregiver Christmas on Dec. 7.
Ruth Cunningham helps assemble more than 1,000 gift bags at CDM Caregiving Services on Tuesday afternoon. The bags will be distributed to Clark County caregivers at the second annual Caregiver Christmas on Dec. 7. (Photos by Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

All day Tuesday, volunteers filled the assembly room at CDM Caregiving Services in Vancouver. Holiday music filled the room as they filled bags with gifts of all kinds: coupons, gift cards, blankets, towels, bath bombs, candles and more.

Each gift bag includes everything necessary for a day of self-care, something every caregiver in Clark County deserves, according to Christina Keys.

Keys is the president of the nonprofit Loving Them Forward, an organization dedicated to improving the well-being of local caregivers. Volunteers on Tuesday were preparing gift bags for the second annual Caregiver Christmas, a holiday gift-giving event put on by Loving Them Forward and other community organizations.

“Clark County is a place that cares for their caregivers,” Keys said. “We want them to know that they’re seen and that they’re heard and valued and appreciated by so many in Clark County. They’re not invisible to us. And we want them to have a great holiday.”

The event will be held from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Dec. 7 at the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds.

Gift bags are free for all family, professional and private caregivers. Those interested can register at Loving Them Forward’s website until the day of the event.

No two gift bags are the same, according to Keys, but each will include a gift card and a coupon, plus literature to help connect caregivers with local resources.

“There’s some things in there that’s going to make it so they don’t feel alone on their journey,” Keys said.

Like last year, the event will be drive-thru. Attendees won’t need to leave their cars, and volunteers will wear masks and socially distance to ensure that those who care for immunocompromised patients can still pick up a gift.

Some 100 volunteers representing over 50 community organizations and businesses helped put on the event this year. Most volunteers are current or former caregivers, according to Keys.

Local organizations Elfin Services and Mikey’s House Team-Keller Williams co-organized the event with Loving Them Forward this year. With their assistance, among others, organizers were able to nearly quadruple their efforts from last year: 1,500 gift bags valued at $50-$100 each will be available, up from 400 last year.

“This has become definitely the biggest event for caregivers in Clark County this season, but also one of the biggest nonprofit events this season,” Keys said.

Donations came in from all over the county, said Michael McCafferty, a volunteer with Mikey’s House Team.

“The participation throughout the county has been amazing this year,” McCafferty said, taking a quick break from carefully loading items into bags. “I think part of the success this year is we’ve been ramping up and gaining momentum since July.”

It’s one of the few countywide events that specifically honors caregivers, according to Keys.

“It’s been a pretty traumatic year for everybody, emotionally and physically and financially, and so we just wanted to make sure that as many caregivers as possible could be celebrated this season,” Keys said. “It’s a project from the heart.”

Those interested in participating or volunteering in Caregiver Christmas can visit Loving Them Forward’s website, or call 360-524-4344.

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