The Sharing the Christmas Spirit Christmas Hamper Program has concluded for another year, and thanks to the generosity of others, 560 Comox Valley homes will have a more enjoyable Christmas.
“A total of 460 of those 560 were families, and the other 100 were singles,” explained hamper program co-ordinator Rob Phillips. “Singles are either single people or couples with no children, so 460 of the hampers were going to homes with at least one child. And when you figure the average is at least two kids, we can safely say at least 1,000 kids were among [the recipients].”
The total was an increase of “about 35” over 2017.
The Sharing the Christmas Spirit Christmas Hamper Program (SCSCHP) is one of three hamper programs in the Valley – the Salvation Army and the Cumberland Lions also have hamper programs, so the number of families in need at Christmas far exceeds the 560 supported by the SCSCHP.
“We do talk to each other to make sure no families are double-dipping,” said Phillips, of the three hamper organizations. “But there is that much need, that we need three different programs on the run at the same time.”
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, and that the volunteers are to be commended for the success of the program.
“I was handed the title of co-ordinator, but it’s certainly the legion of volunteers that make this happen,” he said, before mentioning two, in particular. “Ken and Faye Jones, a husband and wife couple, they basically run the show, from the day we get the warehouse space, wherever that might be. Every year, Ken and Faye will practically take up home at the staging area. They are there every day, making sure everything is done.”
This year the former St. Joseph Hospital Emergency Room was used as the warehouse.
As for associations involved, Phillips said donations come from everywhere.
One such group was the Comox Valley Minor Hockey Association. The CVMHA donated 34 hampers this year, more than double what the group did in 2017.
“Last year was our first year helping out and we made 16 hampers,” said CVMHA 2nd vice-president Younhee Edmonds. “We started planning it this year right at the start of the hockey season, and they (SCSCHP) also had more families for us.
Young received the hamper lists and divided them up between the divisions, so all hockey families in the Comox Valley had a chance to participate.
“As an association, we always ask the community to help us, with our tournaments and things, so we wanted to do something to teach the kids to give back to the community,” said Edmonds. “That’s why we did this.”
There are more than 500 hockey players registered in the CVMHA.
Phillips said the Comox Valley schools are always huge contributors to the success of the program.
“About half the total number of hampers are done by the school system,” he said. “We couldn’t do it without the schools. Probably a total of 20 schools participate… this year they did 250 families for us. That’s a huge contribution.”
Phillips also thanked Royal LePage Comox Valley for handling the administration/phone duties.
“The hotline opens Nov. 1 and either sponsors or people in need phone in and we have to have full-time staff to do that,” said Phillips. “So it’s the generosity of Royal LePage owner and management, allowing their admin staff to do that function for us. Otherwise, we could never do it.”
Hampers were delivered throughout the day Friday. Hampers had to be received by someone at the home – packages are not left on doorsteps – and Phillips said only five packages remained undelivered.
“If there’s no one home, we leave a note on the door, and they call us when they receive the note,” he explained. “By end of day Friday, we got down to a list of nine people who had yet to receive theirs.”
Four of those were contacted Saturday, leaving Phillips with only a handful of unused hampers.
“One of the ones we tried to drop off, we were told the family had moved, but the property manager happened to be right there and said ‘I’ve got a tenant that could really use that,’ so one of those five even got to someone who wasn’t on the list.”
The remaining produce was either returned to the point of purchase, or taken to the food bank.
“So none of it goes to waste,” said Phillips.