by: MAYGAN BECKERS - First time volunteer Rick Saucedo and five-year volunteer Yasmine Robles get ready to help serve bags of almonds, beans and rice, as families go through stations to pick up items.Nearly 30 volunteers served 150 Woodburn families through the St. Vincent de Paul Annual Christmas Distribution Saturday at St. Luke Catholic Church.

St. Vincent de Paul, led by first-year President Rudy Loza, honored Leonard Schmidt, Maria Castillo and St. Luke Catholic School students before the distribution began.

“I know during these hard times, especially in the winter time, these families need extra help,” said Castillo on why she volunteers. “The little kids look forward to the gifts every year.”

A live nativity was also presented by about 16 St. Luke Catholic School students while families waited for their number to be called. This year, volunteers wanted to bring back the meaning of Christmas by having an Old St. Nicholas theme to display a sentimental Christmas by remembering Christ’s birth, according to Rudy Loza. St. Luke pastor James Coleman also shared a prayer spoken in English, while two community members said a prayer in Spanish and Russian.

“I do this every year and it really means a lot to be able to give back to the community, to help the less fortunate,” said Lynn Loza, coordinator for the food bank. “It’s a lot of work, but it gets done and with everybody’s help we get through it.”

A majority of the food was donated through Marion-Polk Food Share, but onions came from Woodburn’s Upland Produce, apples from the Hitz family, 45 dozen eggs from Skyline Farms and chicken from parishioners. Toy donations included 15 bags of toys from KGW News’ Great Toy Drive 2013 and $100 worth from P&C Construction in Portland. Al’s Garden Center provided carts to transport items to families’ cars, Do It Best donated bags and the Catholic Daughters fed volunteers. Other organizations that helped include Silverton Elks, Woodburn Grange, Knights of Columbus and the Woodburn Fire District, which held a food drive in conjunction with the Boy Scouts Dec. 7.

“I believe in what we’re doing. We wouldn’t be doing this if everybody had all that they needed, there wouldn’t be a need for this, but there is a need,” said Al Sprauer, who has been volunteering for St. Vincent de Paul for 26 years. “I feel that what we’re doing is the best thing we can do.”

Other volunteers included St. Luke eighth-graders, who helped prepare boxes Friday, and various fifth- and sixth-graders, who wrapped gifts.

“There’s an awful lot of cooperation between the various service groups and charities in our community and it’s a wonderful thing to see because we work together, help each other and support each other in many different ways,” said St. Vincent de Paul Vice President Tom Mahar.

“Even though people may benefit from something that we do, oftentimes there are a lot of hands in there that we have to be thankful for their support, so we can do what we do.”

In addition to 100 families who signed up for Christmas boxes at Woodburn City Hall last month, St. Vincent de Paul served 50 more families that regularly visit the food bank or have been connected by 2-1-1 Health and Social Services.

“We didn’t turn anyone down,” said Rudy Loza.

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