It may have a new name, but the volunteers are working as hard as ever to feed West Shore residents in need this holiday season.
The Goldstream Food Bank Christmas Hamper Program, formerly the West Shore Christmas Hamper Fund Society, is getting ready to distribute some holiday cheer this month but they need the public’s help.
“It’s coming so fast,” said Paul Patrick, vice-president of the Goldstream Food Bank Christmas Hamper Program.
“Last year we gave out approximately 600 hampers,” said Patrick, noting those feed more than 1,000 adults and roughly 425 children.
Hampers are made up based on family size and include a gift card for a meat product, such as a turkey, which is donated by the Fleet Diving Unit.
But hampers aren’t just meant to cover one meal. “When the hamper leaves here there is probably enough for a week of groceries,” Patrick said.
Each hamper also includes a gift for children, with toys for those under the age of 12 and a gift card for those between the ages of 12 and 17 to purchase something tailored to their interests.
Patrick expects this year the program will hand out a similar number of hampers but he always adds a few extras when purchasing toys or other items.
“People were still walking in the door at the last minute,” he explained. “It’s always a moving figure.”
Patrick noted Belmont and Royal Bay students are getting ready for their annual 10,000 Tonight Food Drive, which takes place on Dec. 13.
That event, along with a number of other campaigns from other schools and groups within the community, go a long way in stocking the shelves and filling the hampers during this time of year. Any extras are held over for when donations are slower in the new year.
Aside from non-perishable food items and monetary donations, volunteers are specifically looking for toy donations for children between the ages of seven and 11.
While operating in the Goldstream Food Bank with a number of the same volunteers, the West Shore Christmas Hamper Fund was its own operation with its own set of books that opened for 30 days of the year.
“Having two societies caused confusion,” Patrick explained. “The West Shore Christmas Hamper Fund is going to dissolve itself at the end of this year … We decided the Goldstream Food Bank Christmas Hamper Program could be an extension of the regular duties.”
Talking about the old society brings back some fond memories for Patrick, who is the only remaining volunteer from its early days.
The West Shore Christmas Hamper Fund started back in 1997. “When the Goldstream Food Bank was only a small building,” Patrick said. “They didn’t have the capacity to do Christmas hampers.”
So a number of local service clubs including the Lions, Kingsmen and Rotary stepped up to fill the void. But it quickly evolved into its own society with a dedicated group of volunteers.
In the early days, Patrick noted they used to set up shop in vacant space in malls or shopping centres and would distribute the hampers from there. But in 2007, when the new Goldstream Food Bank was under construction, a dedicated space was set aside for the Christmas hampers.
Now, it just made sense to combine the two, Patrick said, as he too is also looking to retire at the end of the year. “[But] they’ll always make sure there’s food available.”
The Goldstream Food Bank will be issuing hampers until Dec. 22. But organizers encourage residents to apply early so they can ensure availability. Donations are always welcomed and organizers can issue a tax receipt.
For more information go to goldstreamfoodbank.islandwebhosting.com.