Christmas spirit rises as hamper programs gear up

·4 min read

As the Christmas season fast approaches, the people running local food banks are gearing up to bring a little extra cheer to families and individuals in need.

And this year, volunteers in community cupboards say they’re seeing greater demand than ever from people needing a helping hand this season.

“We have approximately 30% more individuals signed up this year than our average from the past four years, and will be providing hampers to about 25% more households than last year,” said Alison Trim, office manager at the WE Graham Community Service Society (WEGCSS) in Slocan City. “Those registered include seniors, families of all sizes and people living alone, from throughout the valley.”

It’s the same across the Valley Voice readership area.

“Last year about this time it was around 130, so it’s definitely increased,” says Anne Miskulin of Arrow and Slocan Lakes Community Services (ASLCS). “We already have 150 names that we will be delivering to, and it will probably get larger as we get closer to the date.”

“We think demand will be up a little this year because of a slight increase in local population,” agrees Patrick Steiner of the Kaslo Food Hub. “Plus there’s the continued economic effects of COVID, and also the price of food and other consumer goods is going up.”

Donations welcome

With higher demand comes more need for supplies for the hampers, and that depends on the generosity of local donors. Luckily, that’s also in good supply, say volunteers and operators.

“We are just so thankful for the volunteers, agency staff, and donors that allow this to happen,” says Tim Payne, executive director of ASLCS in Nakusp. “Anne always gets more than enough people willing to help. This really speaks well about the community we live in.”

All the programs contacted said the success of the hamper distribution depends on the generosity of local businesses, schools, groups, and individuals each year who sponsor hampers, or offer money, goods, or their volunteer time.

“We depend on and are very grateful for the generosity and support from the community,” said Sue Davies from the New Denver food bank. “Over the past two years we have received grants from Columbia Basin Trust, Food Banks Canada, Columbia Power and support from both the Slocan and Nakusp food banks.”

Donations are welcome at all the support organizations, and it doesn’t have to be in food or toys.

“At this stage we are open to any financial contributions, as with such large numbers registered, we have a lot of shopping to do!” says WEGCSS Manager Trim.

The logistics behind the programs are immense, with volunteers buying, collecting, sorting, and distributing hundreds of baskets, many custom-filled for each family’s needs.

“Our hamper program provides everything a household needs for their celebratory day including a pancake breakfast and a turkey dinner, with gifts for any children in the household,” says WEGCSS’s Trim. “We do our best to accommodate all dietary requirements and preferences and provide alternatives where possible, or grocery cards.

In Kaslo, the Food Hub provides a gift of up to $25 in value per child, and people can make suggestions of desired items to buy for the children.

Trim says helping the food program is a good way to get in the Christmas Spirit.

“We provide a scheme for people to sponsor a family’s hamper, and sponsors can have the enjoyment of shopping and putting together a hamper themselves, along with any personal touches,” she says.

But to get help, the food security groups say they need to know you’re out there.

“We understand it may be difficult or embarrassing for many people to ask for help,” says New Denver’s Davies. “But no one should go hungry, so please don’t hesitate to call.”

How to sign up

For residents of the southern Slocan Valley, registration with WEGCSS has already passed – it closed November 18 for December 16 delivery.

But there’s still time to sign up in New Denver (registration until December 10 for December 18 delivery), Kaslo, (December 9 for December 21 and 22) and Nakusp (December 12 for December 22 delivery).

John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting