For more than 30 years, volunteers have put together and delivered Christmas hampers.
Ken Jones, one of the organizers, estimates it’s closer to 40 years since the Sharing the Christmas Spirit hamper program began. Of late, it has been spearheaded by Royal LePage.
Three days before Christmas, he and a large group of other volunteers were up early and sending out about 550 hampers for people in the Comox Valley this holiday season.
Along with a turkey, hampers include staples like fruit, vegetables, bread and milk, and some included treats such as stuffed toys for children. Most are delivered to families with kids, but about 150 of the orders go to couples without children or single people who sign up for a hamper.
“They can be referred or they can contact us directly,” Jones says. “There’s no questions asked.”
Jones and his wife Faye have taken part for 28 years, but he stresses the program works because of the efforts of so many volunteers. Some of them have been helping for 15 or 20 years, while for others, this is their first year. Jones says, in time, there are about 30 “stalwart” volunteers who do a lot of the organizing.
“I may steer the ship, but they’re the ones who keep it afloat,” he says.
One change this year is the program is run out of two sites. Volunteers started the day about 6 a.m. with deliveries of hampers from an old Blockbuster video location, then moved over to the former regional district office. Of course, the work starts well before the holiday season, with organizers starting to plan in August, trying to line up about $22,000 worth of turkeys and everything that goes with them.
At the delivery centre, volunteers packed the totes, checked orders and lugged everything by hand-truck out to staging areas set for different parts of the Comox Valley. From there, they packed the drivers’ vehicles at which point the meal hampers were delivered.
Volunteers come from beyond the Comox Valley too. Allison Gauvin has come in from Parksville the last five years. She was helping to get the hampers ready while her husband and kids were out making deliveries. They know Ken and Faye through their business Skydive Vancouver Island, and Gauvin enjoys the chance to help out others during the holiday season.
“It feels good to pay it forward,” she says.
Anyone who wants more information about the program can get in touch with Jones at 250-335-0002 or call Royal LePage. There is also information online at christmashamper.ca