GRANDVIEW - Brightening Christmas morning for clients of the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic is the goal of Mountainview Women's Health Center, Mt. Adams Medical Clinic and Prosser Medical Center. The four health care clinics are made up of dedicated employees who work on a daily basis with some of the poorest families in the community.
Clinic employees have already begun collecting food, clothing and gifts for children and their families who rely on the clinics for medical services.
The holiday basket program started off as a small way to help families and has grown over the past 14 years.
"Our goal is to put together about 14 baskets," said Liza Jasso, chairperson of the employee relations committee that sponsors the event. "Last year we did about 30."
At most the clinics have gathered items for 50 different families, but Eva Contreras, administrative secretary for the farm workers clinic, said the past couple of years they have narrowed down the number they have provided baskets for.
"We wanted to be able to put more in the baskets," said Contreras.
Many of the items collected for the families come from the community and some are donated by the employees of the clinic.
According to Clinic Administrator Glen Davis, the employees who are on the employee relations committee also hold fund-raisers to gather money to purchase items that aren't donated to the families.
Families that are given the baskets are nominated by the staff of the clinics and even by the doctors, said Jasso.
"We nominate them from within our patient population," said Davis.
Each family is considered based on need.
"We rely on the employees and their judgment," said Jasso. "All the families that have been nominated we've done baskets for."
Contreras said many who are served are elderly, or families with children.
She said the average family is about five members, but last year they provided a basket for a family of eleven.
To deliver the baskets, Santa Claus and his elf arrive to take the packages to local homes.
Santa is really Rusty McEwen from LifeSavers, a courier for the farm workers clinic.
Contreras said that other employees also help in delivering the baskets.
"They really see how our patients live. It's eye opening," she said, adding that the employees started the project as a way to brighten the holidays for their clients.
Last year, the group presented laundry baskets with non-perishable foods, potatoes, apples and toys for the little kids and watches or portable CD players for the older kids.
They also collect some clothing items. Last year, baby clothes were being sought, said Jasso. The Warm-Up project has also donated knitted hats and gloves, which have been given to families.
Jasso said they also try to put blankets in the baskets for moms who are expecting or recently had a baby.
Donations for the Christmas baskets can be dropped off at any of the four clinics, which include the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic at 1000 Wallace Way in Grandview and the Mountainview Women's Health Center, 240 Division St. in Grandview.
Donations will be accepted through Dec. 15 and the baskets will be delivered Dec. 20.