West Shore community demonstrates generosity with food, gift donations
With help from a volunteer Langford firefighter, Guy Brisbois unloads bags of donated food packed into his pickup truck. It’s his third run of the day.
The goods are carted into the Christmas hamper headquarters, as food boxes are carted out past a lineup of patient people, a seemingly ceaseless conveyor of Christmas cheer coming out of the Langford Legion basement.
“The community is very generous,” remarks Brisbois, the fire chief of Highlands. “The generosity gets bigger and bigger every year.”
Highlands firefighters collected the food during that community’s fire department Santa run on Sunday. It’s one of a long list of donations — West Shore Christmas Hamper shelves are jammed packed after scores of food, toy and cash donations from citizens, businesses, school kids, and church and community groups.
Paul Patrick says this might be one of the most successful hamper drives in his 13 years of being volunteer treasurer of Christmas hamper fund. This year there’s enough funds to bump up the dollar amount for meat vouchers, and for teens to get gift cards.
“We’ve got way more groceries this year. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many. They’re coming out of our ears,” Patrick says. “I’ve never seen a more generous community.”
Indeed, the shelves are stocked with rows of non-perishables. Toys and candy line a storeroom as if it were the warehouse of Santa Claus himself. “You can see the generosity of the West Shore people,” Patrick says. “And all the volunteers deserve accolades. Without them we’d never be able to get this going.”
Volunteer Walter Dubeau took the week off work as a navy fleet diver in Colwood to load food and run errands for the hamper fund.
“Helping the community is a good feeling. This is a time when people need help, and we’re able to provide it for them,” said Dubeau, who helped organize the fleet dive unit “Turkey Run” in early December, which raised $17,200 for the hamper fund.
“It’s amazing the number of people who volunteer here. We deliver (hundreds) of hampers, and it takes a lot of background work to do that.”
Volunteers expected to distribute 125 hampers on Tuesday, as a steady stream of people lined up outside hamper headquarters. In all, the annual effort will distribute at least 620 hampers to individuals, families and children from the West Shore. West Shore businesses, groups and agencies assembled at least another 40 hampers.
For most recipients, food and gift hampers ease the stress and expense of the Christmas season. Many are for people on fixed incomes or who are under-employed — the donation means they’re not forced to choose between rent and buying gifts for their kids.
“There wouldn’t be a Christmas without this place,” Angela Dupuis, 22, who moved to Langford from London, Ont., in July with her boyfriend Daniel Roden. “I’ve been off work. It’s been tough.”
Vickie Semenoff said community generosity, such as the food hampers and the Our Lady of the Rosary church Christmas dinner, make a big difference in people’s lives.
“It’s great the food bank is here for us. Some days I’ve cried my eyes out because there’s nothing in the cupboards,” Semenoff said while waiting in line on Tuesday. “This will help with a weeks worth of food. What they do here is amazing.”
Amber Carnegie said she works part time and her husband toils seven days per week, but it’s still tough to keep their heads above water. The Christmas hamper eases the grind of daily life, and living in a tough economy.
“So many families are struggling. This is such an expensive (city). Families can’t survive,” Carnegie said. “This makes Christmas beautiful. This allows us to have food on the table. I know my daughter’s Christmas will be a beautiful one.”
Just getting by and little financial breathing room is a common theme among people receiving hampers. All are quick to thank the busy volunteers tirelessly assembling food bundles, and many remark how the food bank is generous, and needed, all year round.
“Every little bit helps. The food bank helps make ends meet,” said Judi Champion. “Langford is lucky. They’ve got a good one out here.”
“Langford is a community that gives to the community,” added Lynne Emery, 70, of View Royal, who lives on a government pension. “The hampers are the difference between just surviving and having a bit of fun.”
Julia Gerrand, who accompanied her sister to pick up a hamper, said witnessing the constant stream of donations and the outpouring of giving is what the community is all about.
“Seeing everyone come together like this is awesome. This helps a lot of people,” she said. “If everyone does a little bit, then everyone should have a merry Christmas.”