'Sea of volunteers' creates mountain of hampers in Comox Valley

With a "sea of volunteers" on hand, Christmas hampers filled with food and gifts for those in need in the Comox Valley were distributed with time to spare for the holidays.

Rob Phillips, along with his co-workers at Coast Realty Group, organized the Christmas Spirit Hamper program and said the distribution, which occurred Dec. 21, "went swimmingly."

"It wouldn't run like it does if it wasn't for the volunteers and the co-ordinators. We just made some small tweaks from past years … and we were able to ship out hampers to drivers more quickly," he explained.

"We were done in two hours, and it normally take about three hours (to distribute all of the hampers.) It was a huge change."

Phillips credited volunteers who called drivers two days in advance to remind them of the pick-up day and those receiving hampers to ensure they were home to receive.

"Even after some returns, all the hampers were delivered within 48 hours," he added.

In total, around 570 hampers were distributed throughout the Valley, down from 623 last year.

Donations of funds received by professionals in the community went towards purchasing single hampers (households with two or less people), while those for families were sponsored by individuals, families or work places who purchased items from a personalized list.

Phillips explained another factor in the successful program was the change in the distribution location, which was at the former PlanetClean location on Moray Avenue.

"They still had some time left on their lease and we were able to use the space. It's an annual challenge to try and find an empty space that's about 4,000 square feet, but we had a very generous tenant," he added.

• • •

Following the success of their inaugural fundraising drive for the Stepping Stones Women's Recovery House, staff at Kean Auto Services is already thinking ahead to next year.

"We were able to deliver a Christmas dinner with all the fixings (and) $665 in donations," said employee Heather Phalen in an e-mail.

Along with owner Phil Peterson, the store created a Christmas-themed twist for cash donations (a $5 minimum donation for a Christmas ball) and the business donated 10 per cent of any repairs they performed in December when people mentioned the initiative.

Phalen said the funds were used to purchase a TV and a Blu-ray player. She added the Armstrong family also purchased and donated a 42-inch LCD TV.

Other donations included living room furniture, jackets and clothing, toiletries, baked goods, dry goods and gift certificates.

"As well, the Courtenay Sports Centre donated pool passes and Marigold Pharmacy donated vitamins and supplements," added Phalen.


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