Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital Foundation will award the annual Hearts of Gold honor to the folks behind Hood River Christmas Project.

Next month’s celebration in the group’s honor will be a benefit for another community project, a day respite program for people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Hearts of Gold happens Feb. 29 at 6 p.m. at th Best Western  Plus Hood River Inn Gorge Room.

For more than 20 years, health professionals and community members have been honored by the Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital Foundation with “Hearts of Gold” awards. For 2020, the foundation is honoring the Christmas Project as a group for their substantial impact on our community.

“We are thrilled to honor this group and the impact they’ve had for almost 100 years in existence,” said Providence’s Susan Frost.

For Bruce Holmson, his heart of gold urged him to step up and help lead the Hood River Christmas Project in 2006 when some of the regular volunteers said, “Bruce, you’re it.”

From what he knew, the organization began in the 1920s as an Elks Club organization and over the years other groups took on the responsibilities. Participation varied throughout the years and Holmson, with several other key volunteers, created more structure by forming a board of directors in 2006.

Many people don’t know that volunteers in year-round roles make it possible for the group to help those who need it most during Christmas time. Coordinating food and meals, registering families, making deliveries, sorting gifts and ensuring toys are given to kids are just some of the roles for volunteers. There’s also a sub project called Tree of Joy, in which businesses sponsor kids and seniors by taking a card from a giving tree and fulfilling wishes.

According to a press release, the efforts by the Hood River Christmas Project are monumental each year. They also fundraise throughout the year and many know of the Christmas Project from the fashion shows coordinated for years by Cathy Carter in partnership with downtown merchants.

“When more than 300 volunteers, like Carter and others, show their hearts of gold the results are amazing,” Frost said.

Just tallied for 2019 — the group served 470 families made up of 1,787 individuals, including 868 children.

When the Providence Hood River Foundation board received a “Hearts of Gold” nomination form for the project, it was clear this group deserved recognition, according to Frost. It was also the first nomination to be made by another organization and not an individual. The Christmas Project was nominated by a previously honored organization, FISH Food Bank.

Currently community members Jeff McCaw, Mary Finley, Kym Zanmillier and Leslie Hidle serve on the board with Holmson. They would tell you it’s the hundreds of volunteers working tirelessly throughout the year that allow them to provide meals, toys, gifts and a warm sense of community during the holidays, Frost noted. The nomination described the Christmas Project “reflecting the heart and soul of a community that cares,” said a press release.

Along with the award celebration, guests will hear about the Providence Brookside Sunshine Club, the beneficiary of the event. The Sunshine Club provides a day group for people with memory loss disease. It’s a place where families can help their loved ones socialize, be active, share community and enjoy themselves, said a press release.

“It’s a tradition to highlight foundation programs each year after awards and we know stories and photos about the Sunshine Club will touch the hearts of our guests. It will be a very special night,” said Frost.

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