Ada Sanchez and her three children, Esmeralda, 4, Sirena, 7, and Edric, 4 months, get ready to load their car with the makings for a Thanksgiving meal from the The Salvation Army Monday with the help of volunteers from Grace Church of Central Point. - Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell

A hunger for help

Not that long ago, Medford appraiser Ada Sanchez and her family had the kind of income that might have allowed them to help other families during the holidays.

But the recession and a three-month hiatus from work for bed rest during her pregnancy changed all that, and this year, Sanchez and her three children for the first time had to seek help fromThe Salvation Army to provide the family's annual Thanksgiving meal.

"It's been kind of hard," Sanchez said. "My husband works at Grayback (Forestry Inc.) He has had a lot less fires and hasn't been able to work."

The Sanchez family is just one example of a trend visible at The Salvation Army's holiday season kickoff Monday when turkeys, trimmings and ingredients for traditional side dishes were distributed to more than 700 Jackson County families, said Martin Cooper of The Salvation Army Medford Citadel.

"Many people who were donors last year are now receiving help," Cooper said.

With Jackson County's unemployment rate stubbornly holding at 13.3 percent — far above the state and national average — and foreclosures continuing at a rapid pace, more new faces seeking help are expected throughout the holiday season, Cooper said.

He said about 99 percent of recipients signed up for the Thanksgiving food in advance, but others came by at the last minute.

"Often it means they didn't know, or they just got laid off or something else happened in their life," Cooper said.

A recent study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture identified Oregon as one of the five hungriest states in the country, a fact reinforced by Monday's Salvation Army event in Medford.

"We wouldn't have had anything to speak of if it weren't for this," said Ashland resident Joe Maynard.

"Now, we can fix turkey and canned goods. It's super."

Maynard and his wife, Heather, planned to prepare the meal for their three children on Thanksgiving. The family lives off Maynard's Social Security checks.

"This is a godsend," Maynard said. "It's hard to believe all these people are out of work."

Monday's event, made possible by donations from businesses and individuals, kicks off the Salvation Army's holiday season. Medford's Les Schwab donated about half of all the turkeys given out Monday. There also were families of modest means who donated just one turkey to help out, Cooper said.

More donations will be needed to help all the families who will seek help for Christmas, Cooper said.

"Between now and Dec. 25, the need for toys will be overwhelming," Cooper said.

Last year, the Salvation Army didn't have enough toys to meet demand, he said.

Toys and other donations can be dropped off at the Salvation Army, 304 Beatty St. in Medford. Monetary donations dropped off at the red kettle stands at local businesses also are used for the Christmas season. All of the donations stay locally, Cooper said.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or e-mail

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