Christmas Connection joins with holiday dinner: Drop in donations forces St. Vincent de Paul, churches to combine annual valley events

Two annual Christmas events in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley are joining this year for a combined gift give-away and holiday dinner in December.

St. Vincent de Paul's Christmas Connection is partnering with a community dinner organized by Catholic churches in the area to provide new toys for children, food boxes for the homebound and a Christmas dinner for people living in Lewiston, Clarkston and Asotin.

For the past 23 years, Christmas Connection was a separate event and the community dinner was conducted the following day. A decrease in donations has fueled the change, organizers said.

"It was a very hard decision to make," said Ellen Dekan, secretary of the St. Vincent de Paul board of directors. "Last year we went in the hole with Christmas Connection, and we felt like this was a good time to do the partnering, with the economy the way it is."

Going backwards financially on Christmas Connection hinders the social services provided by St. Vincent de Paul on the other 364 days of the year, she said. The non-profit organization serves between 300 to 400 needy people a month by providing such items as food, gas vouchers, household goods, clothing and school supplies.

Because of the shortfall in donations, Christmas Connection won't be providing grocery vouchers this year, but people will be served dinner at the combined event, Dekan said. The dinner and gift giveaway is from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Dec. 12 at the All Saints Catholic School gym at St. Stanislaus in Lewiston.

Scarves, hats and gloves are given away at the dinner, Operation Wishbook will provide books for children and Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus will be on hand to greet youngsters, Dekan said.

People who want to attend the event and receive toys for children to age 18 can sign up from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Nov. 23 through Dec. 4 at the St. Vincent de Paul stores in Lewiston and Clarkston. The program is open to residents of Lewiston, Clarkston and Asotin. Those signing up must bring proof of residency and photo identification.

More information is available by calling the executive director of St. Vincent de Paul, Shannon Koskenmaki, at (509) 758-7061. Disabled or homebound residents can sign up by calling the above number.

Donations are needed to purchase gifts for kids and the dinner, Koskenmaki said. New toys or monetary donations may be dropped off or sent to Christmas Connection, St. Vincent de Paul, 604 Second St., Clarkston.

"We still want to see smiles on faces and help make good memories," Dekan said. "This is a celebration of the season, a family event for the whole community."

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