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On Thursday night, about 45 teens from Corvallis High School’s Interact Club spread out to four Hamilton grocery stores as part of their annual holiday food drive.

Over the span of four hours, they asked folks headed into the stores to consider purchasing one can of food to help stock Hamilton’s Haven House.

The generosity they found was overwhelming.

One man at Super One came back out of the store with a cart packed full of food that he wanted to donate. Another at the Hamilton Market Place reached into his wallet and pulled out two $100 bills and told the young people to buy whatever they thought the food bank could use. At Safeway, employees of the store were spotted packing out cases of canned food to donate to the drive.

On Friday morning, Interact Club President Madie Bierer and a small group of helpers delivered 2,427 pounds of food to Haven House.

The drive surpassed last year’s effort by more than 400 pounds.

“It was just awesome,” Bierer said. “It was amazing to see our community come together like that. We owe everyone who helped us a great big thank you.”

The club is sponsored by the Hamilton Rotary Club.

Rotarian Marilyn Morris said community support for the annual food drive continues to grow each year but it’s not only the food bank and its patrons who benefit.

“The students learn what it feels like to give back to their community,” Morris said. “Every month, they participate in a community service program, which could be cleaning up a highway or taking care of families at Christmas time. It teaches them to give back to others.”

At 100 members, Bierer said it’s the largest club at Corvallis High School.

“I just love the giving back to our community,” Bierer said. “We work together on tasks that may be simple, but when you break it down, you recognize the impact that your team has been able to make. It’s incredible.”

Food banks throughout the Bitterroot Valley are feeling the support of their communities with the approach of the holiday season.

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Haven House Food Pantry’s manager Judy Williams weighed the sacks and boxes of food the Corvallis students brought through the facility’s loading dock Friday morning.

“Right now, we’re in great shape for the holiday,” Williams said. “We been so busy, but as always, we’re also very nicely supported by our community.”

In between helping the people who come through the door in need of food, Williams said the Hamilton food bank is preparing for its largest event of the year. On Saturday, Nov. 23, there will be cars lined up for blocks filled with people anxious to receive their Thanksgiving dinner.

“We already have about 100 people signed up,” Williams said. “I expect we’ll have another 100. We already have 90 turkeys. We’re hoping to get some more from the Missoula radio station.

“I always want for people to know how thankful we are for all of their support,” she said. “This wouldn’t be possible without them.”

Volunteers at the Darby Bread Box are making preparations for providing food boxes for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

“We try to fill those boxes with all the kinds of the things that you would normally think of for a basic Thanksgiving or Christmas meal,” Darby Bread Box director Mary Lockwood said. “One thing right now that we could use is frozen pies. We’ve found that some of the gentlemen and ladies who come like to be able to have those as their holiday dessert.”

The Darby food bank could also use some more turkeys and ham as well as vegetables and refrigerator rolls to help fill out those holiday boxes.

They already have 107 families and individuals signed up for a Thanksgiving meal. Lockwood expects that there will be more.

The Stevensville Food Pantry’s largest event of the year will happen on Tuesday, Dec. 17, when hundreds will receive the makings for the perfect holiday meal.

“I think we’re doing pretty well in getting ready for that,” said Shari Kastenholz, the pantry’s Friday crew leader.

The community has already stepped up and donated enough turkeys for Thanksgiving that Kastenholz said clients will be able to pick one up on Monday, Nov. 25, while the surplus lasts.

“We could use some yams, potatoes and carrots,” Kastenholz said. “Those are some of the kinds that we could use. Stuffing mixes would be great, too.”

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