Dozens of volunteers packed boxes with Thanksgiving dinner essentials Sunday morning. Others loaded boxes into cars and trucks for delivery across Benton County. Still more cleaned up stacks of cardboard and other remains involved in bringing holiday meals to 1,400 families.

Meanwhile, the longtime organizer of the Community Holiday Food Drive, Judy Gibson, was dealing with a shortage of eggs.

The Oregon Food Bank hadn’t sent enough eggs. Although Gibson expected more to arrive Monday, when most of the food boxes will be distributed from the Benton County Fairgrounds, the boxes going out to rural food banks in the county Sunday would be short on the component.

So Gibson tried to send a volunteer to the store with a personal check to pick up the last 18 dozen eggs needed to complete the boxes. Despite Gibson’s insistence, the volunteer decided to just buy the eggs herself and refused to take Gibson’s money.

“She won that one,” Gibson said, but over her approximately 23 years as the food drive’s organizer, she has “pitched in a few times” herself.

Gibson said it is important to her that families don’t have anything missing from their boxes, and spending her own money to fill a gap wasn’t even something she questioned.

“I have it to give. I’m very fortunate to have it to give. That’s why I do this.”

But Gibson, 66, is hoping that this is the last year she’ll have to run the holiday food drive, which she runs in collaboration with the Linn Benton Food Share, using its non-profit status and some of its food. Local groups, like the Boy Scout troops, also run food drives for the event, she said, and it takes about $32,000 to buy all the food necessary for low income families to have Thanksgiving meal boxes.

Gibson said she works for about ten days straight leading up to the distribution day, which this year is Monday. About 1,350 families signed up in advance to get food boxes through the drive, which is at the Benton County Fairgrounds, at 110 SW 53rd Street.

“I’m not getting any younger,” she said.

Gibson said she has hundreds of volunteers, but she’s a bad delegator, so much of the work she does herself. Although she has no one identified to run the drive next year, she is hopeful about finding a replacement, or possibly a committee to replace her.

“It’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done in my entire life,” she said of running the drive. “It is a lot of effort, but it’s only once a year. The Food Share carries on the fight the rest of the year.”

She said if she can’t find a replacement, she may step in again next year, but she is very serious about getting out of running the event after this year.

Gibson said it will be a challenge to give up running the event.

“I’ll probably be out in the parking lot looking in the windows. It will be hard to give up.”

Gibson said when she first got involved with the drive in the early 1990s, it only served about 800 families, but the need in the county has grown through the years.

“(Hunger) is kind of a hidden problem in Corvallis because it is a wealthy community,” she said.

She said the real growth in need is among working families.

“There are a lot of working families not making it on minimum wage jobs,” she said.

People interested in supporting the drive financially can donate by check to Community Holiday Food Drive, care of Coldwell Banker Valley Brokers, at 1109 NW Ninth Street, Corvallis.

Anthony Rimel covers education and can be reached at anthony.rimel@lee.net, 541-758-9526, or via Twitter @anthonyrimel.

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