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Dana Britton has a lot of mouths to feed this Thanksgiving.

“Between all of us, there’s nine: There’s my mom, my sister, my niece, and then there’s my five kids,” she said.

Britton recently moved to Corvallis from Kansas City with her children, ages 4, 7, 9, 10 and 16, to be near her mother and sister, who have health issues. “They need me to help take care of them,” she said.

Needing some help herself to fill the family larder, Britton made a trip Monday morning to the Benton County Fairgrounds, where a host of volunteers were passing out free food boxes filled with donated holiday staples for families in need.

She came away with two turkeys, eggs, butter, two loaves of bread, a sack of flour, cans of yams and other vegetables, bags of potatoes, carrots and apples, and one item from the “choose your own” table: a bottle of barbecue sauce.

Food box distribution from the annual Community Holiday Food Drive started at 10 a.m., with a line of people waiting outside the door of Guerber Hall.

“We had, like, 100 more people sign up this year than last year, so the need is still there,” said local real estate agent Judy Gibson, the food drive’s organizer.

Gibson said she expected to hand out about 1,500 food boxes this year, up from 1,400 last year — enough to provide a hearty Thanksgiving dinner to more than 4,400 people.

Most of the canned goods and packaged foods came from community donations, bagged up and left on doorsteps all over Benton County for collection by Boy Scout and Cub Scout troops on Nov. 16. Fresh fruits and veggies came from Oregon State University, Stahlbush Island Farms, Gathering Together Farm and other local growers.

Hundreds of volunteers turned out to sort the food into boxes, deliver it to shut-ins all over the county, and help the people who showed up at the fairgrounds on Monday.

“Lots of good volunteers,” said Mike Gibson, Judy Gibson’s husband and director of Linn Benton Food Share. “That’s what it takes.”

Mark Matsler helped Britton carry her holiday groceries to her car while his wife, Barb Kralj, worked at one of the food-sorting tables. The two have been volunteering for the annual food drive for about 25 years now, along with a number of employees from Griffo Brothers, their machine shop and software business.

“Our whole company comes,” said Kralj. “We have two businesses, and everybody comes every year.”

Financial contributions still are needed to cover the cost of purchasing turkeys, eggs and other perishable foodstuffs. Checks can be made out to Community Holiday Food Drive and delivered to Judy Gibson at the Coldwell Banker Valley Brokers real estate office, 1109 N.W. Ninth St.

Any nonperishable food that doesn’t go to needy families for Thanksgiving will be donated to the Vina Moses Center for distribution in Christmas food boxes.

Reporter Bennett Hall can be contacted at 541-758-9529 or bennett.hall@gazettetimes.com.

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Special Projects Editor

Special Projects Editor, Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald

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