The holiday season is fast approaching and the Goldstream Food Bank Society is busy getting ready to spread cheer with their annual Christmas hamper program.
Buried in the basement of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 91, the food bank’s warehouse has been neatly organized with each food type given its own labeled space on shelves.
It’s a step above the well-oiled machine’s usual system, and one worthwhile given the increase in clients the season tends to bring.
“For Christmas, we try to give everybody the same hampers,” said volunteer Darrell Colwell. “It makes it easier since we have so many more people over a normal month. We have [clients] register, and all of our shelving is reorganized.”
Gayle Ireland, food bank president, said they have budgeted for 650 hampers this year, but expect to have some extras left over.
“Last year we did 477, and this year, our regular monthly statistics say [demand] is up 25 per cent,” said Ireland. “We will probably come in at 550-600, but we have extra food in place in case we need it.”
Ireland said each December the Christmas hampers replace the usual monthly haul clients receive and feature a more holiday meal-appropriate selection of foods. But perhaps more importantly, the hampers include a few extras which can make all the difference to those in need.
Each hamper includes a gift card to allow clients to purchase a turkey or other main meat of their choice – a practicality that does not take up as much valuable storage space as hundreds of frozen turkeys – and a second gift card to allow clients to purchase toys for their children.
”It’s a very generous hamper. It’s goodwill towards men, it’s helping people in these difficult times,” said Ireland. “We are just trying to make life easier, less stressful and happier for as many needy West Shore families as possible.”
Before the pandemic, hampers would include actual toys, but safety protocols saw them replaced with gift cards last year.
For volunteer Linda Weeden, seeing the looks of appreciation on the faces of clients when they receive their hampers is a highlight of her holiday season.
“Especially the ones with children, it means a great deal to them,” she said. “These last two years have been especially hard for a lot of people, so I think this year it will mean even more.”
Donations are welcome to help with both the Christmas hamper program and with the food bank’s regular efforts. Ireland said no donation of toys or in-date non-perishable foods will be turned away, but the most valuable donation for the food bank is money, as it can be put toward gift cards, the facility’s expenses, or simply to take advantage of their large buying power, resulting in the most food per dollar.
Call 250-474-4443 or visit goldstreamfoodbank.org for more information.