More than 100 volunteers were up bright and early Saturday morning, ensuring Comox Valley families in need were taken care of in time for Christmas.
The annual Sharing the Christmas Spirit Christmas Hamper Program (SCSCHP) rollout took place at the old St. Joseph Hospital site, as volunteers loaded a steady stream of vehicles with hampers for less fortunate families.
A total of 600 families were provided hampers.
The rollout was virtually complete by noon, Saturday.
“We only have about 20 returns, and we already have about half of those taken care of,” said hamper program co-ordinator Rob Phillips. “So there are about 10 or 12 more to still track down, but that’s pretty good. The next couple of days will be just about trying to get these last families taken care of.”
There were 450 family hampers, and 150 “single” hampers distributed this year.
“A ‘single’ is one or two adults, with no kids,” said Phillips.
The estimated value of each hamper is $50 per person ( a hamper for a family of four would be worth $200). Phillips said there was between $100,000 and $120,000 in goods packaged for families this year.
A community effort
“About half of the family hampers were done through participation of the school system, both the English (SD71) and French (SD93 – École Au-cœur-de-l’île) streams,” said Phillips. “They all participated. I don’t know how we would do this without their participation.”
Phillips said numerous groups contribute to the success of the program every year, including John’s -Your Independent Grocer (Comox), Canadian Tire, the post office, and Royal Lepage.
“The admin people at Royal LePage, a couple of them are running the phones for us from November 1st on, and that’s a huge task – taking calls from people who need to be sponsored, as well as those who want to sponsor,” said Phillips. “It’s a whole phalanx of volunteers who come in on their own free time to do the phoning or receive the phone calls, taking shifts right through the month of November. So that’s huge… as well as all the volunteers who help out in the warehouse.”
That’s where Ken and Fay Jones come in.
As volunteer co-ordinators, they look after the manpower.
“Everything today went so smoothly,” said Phillips. “It’s somewhat of a testimonial to Ken and the way he runs the show. It is very much like a military operation, because Ken is former military. So a lot of the volunteers are former, or current military themselves.”
That includes the various cadet groups in the Comox Valley.
“All of them – sea cadets, air cadets, all of them are so important to this. If it weren’t for the cadets, we would be here for the rest of the day,” said Ken Jones, after the rollout ended.
|Some cadets roll out hampers to the loading station. Photo by Terry Farrell|
Jones said that while the hamper program comes to the forefront in November, there is very little down-time throughout the year.
“It’s pretty much a year-round process,” he said. “We will go in the office in January and … plan for next year; how many turkeys we will need to order; do we need to order any more labels, anything like that. Annette Bowden is writing [support/sponsorship] letters every week, throughout the year. She really runs the whole system. I just look after [manpower] side of it.”
Hockey community helps out
The Comox Valley Minor Hockey Association carried out its Christmas hamper program again this year, supplying 36 hampers to families in need.
This is the third year the CVMHA has taken part in the SCSCHP, and the number of hampers filled by the CVMHA has increased every year.
|Jennifer Walsh (left) 2nd vice-president and Lauri Neufeld, president of Comox Valley Minor Hockey Association with all of the hampers that the players/families prepared and donated to the Share the Christmas Spirit program. Photo supplied|
“We did everything at the Sports Centre last Saturday morning (Dec. 13) and then a crew came and picked up the hampers,” said CVMHA 2nd vice-president, Jennifer Walsh.
The novice and initiation divisions were responsible for two hampers per division. The divisions from atom onwards had one hamper per team.
“It’s based on our numbers for enrolment, but the novice and initiation divisions ended up doing an extra hamper each.”
Walsh said it’s important for the CVMHA and its players to get involved in the hamper initiative.
“We have a lot of support from the community to help our teams and our families throughout the year, as in sponsorships for our teams, and for our tournaments,” said Walsh. “We can’t necessarily give back to the community members that provide funds for us through sponsorships, but we can give back to the community by doing events like this. We think it’s really important for the kids to get involved and teach them to be appreciative, and to give back.”
Phillips, who has been involved with the hamper program since his arrival to the Comox Valley in 1998, said he can’t imagine not being a part of it.
“It’s addictive. It’s so well run. We have a cadre of volunteers, who are so important,” said Phillips. “Kenny [Jones] and his wife [Faye] are the personification of the program. They won’t take any credit, but without them, this thing wouldn’t work.”
Phillips also gave a shout-out to St. Joe’s for providing the space.
“We’ve run it out of here [the old emergency ward] for two years now and it’s just fabulous.”