Homebuilders play Santa at Thanksgiving

While the housing market may be less than festive this year, a local band of homebuilders spent the early part of the week coordinating efforts to collect some 109 bags of Thanksgiving food for Kids Unlimited clients.

The donated dinners, valued at about $2,700, will serve families unable to make it to a free turkey dinner planned for tonight for low-income and homeless families at the Kids Unlimited Main One facility in Medford.

The homebuilders association initiated the annual project last year, creating 50 bags filled with $15 in Thanksgiving "fixings."

Seeking to raise the bar, they more than doubled the number of bags this year and threw in $10 gift certificates to provide a turkey or ham, said association board member and local contractor Lori Nagel.

The bags will primarily go to families from Jackson, Washington and McLoughlin schools — families least likely to contact the homebuilders' association for contractor or homebuilding services.

"These are definitely not families who are buying new homes over there," Nagel said. "These are established communities, lower income.

"Even though a lot of contractors are having kind of a tough time with the housing market right now, there are so many people less fortunate than us and we wanted to help the kids and families in our community."

Kids Unlimited director of academic programming Jamie Kaufman said the food bags provided last year were obviously appreciated by families served by Kids Unlimited, many of whom personally contacted the agency with a heartfelt thanks.

"So many people took the time last year to call and say, 'Oh my gosh, thank you so much!'," she said.

Kaufman called this year's donation, twice as large as in 2006, a "fabulous surprise." Some of the food bags will be picked up by families at Kids Unlimited, while staff members will deliver food to those without transportation.

"Without the homebuilders association, we'd still be knocking on doors trying to come up with enough food for the families we serve," she said. "This is a great example of the community coming together to help these families "¦ . It really takes a village."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffypollock@juno.com.

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