PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — On Tuesday morning, volunteers assembled thousands of boxes at Midwest Food Bank in Peoria.

Those volunteers included nursing students from Methodist College and volunteers from Midwest Food Bank. It’s all to prepare for the annual Journal Star Christmas Fund.

For the past 111 years, the program has provided food boxes and toys for local families in need during the holidays. The community donates money to support the program. Midwest Food Bank helps by assembling the boxes at their location and getting them ready for distribution.

The Salvation Army is responsible for identifying people in need of assistance during the holidays each year.

This year, the money raised through the program is being used to purchase food for 4,000 Christmas Food Boxes that will include a $20 gift card with each box that families can use to buy meat for their meal or other food items they need to complete their holiday dinner.

Tri-County Development Director, Kathy Anderson, said there is so much that goes on behind the scenes to make this happen each year.

“It literally takes the community donating money, it takes Hy-Vee who helps us get all the food that we need, it takes Midwest Food Bank putting all this together, and then we help identify the people who need assistance and make sure they get what they need so that they have a happy holiday,” Anderson said.

Midwest Food Bank Operations Manager, Michelle Hatfield, said this program is important because of the collaboration of all partners.

“It’s a partnership with another local organization that’s affecting our community, it’s impacting our community here, so that’s really special just to be able to be a partner with the Salvation Army and working with Kathy and Hy-Vee,” Hatfield said.

The Salvation Army will not be providing Red Stockings this year, but will instead direct people to sign up for toys through The Salvation Army’s Christmas Assistance Program.

If you’d like to make a donation to the Journal Star Fund, you can mail a check to: Journal Star Christmas Fund, P.O. Box 5489, Peoria, IL 61601-5306. Or you can make donations online.

You can sign up for a Christmas Food Box or toys from the Salvation Army Toy Shop here starting Nov. 2.

In-person sign-ups are also being held:

Peoria Dates:

  • Wednesday, Nov. 1 & Thursday, Nov. 2, from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day at the Salvation Army Corps Community Center: 2903 W. Nebraska Ave., Peoria
  • Nov. 9, 16, 30, and Dec. 7, each day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at The Salvation Army Family Service Center: 417 NE Adams, Peoria

Pekin Dates: (All in-person sign-ups will be at the Pekin Salvation Army’s 360 Life Center at 243 Derby St. in Pekin)

  • Monday, Nov. 6, through Thursday, Nov. 9, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Monday, Nov.13 through Thursday, Nov. 16, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Monday, Nov, 20 through Wednesday, Nov 22, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Nov, 28 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.