This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Community Connections Christmas Hamper program.
“The first year we didn’t do it because the Elks were still doing it, but I went and volunteered with them that year,” said Patti Larson, community outreach and development program manager with Community Connections. “I thought after seeing what they [Elks] were doing, and the membership was aging, and because we were already doing the food bank […] People didn’t know who to donate to and it’s the same people that we were helping.”
So, after volunteering with the Elks 16 years ago, Larson approached the group to ask if they would turn the program over to Community Connections. Not only did the Elks agree to this, they subsequently donated around $7,000.00.
“That was really helpful and got us started for Christmas of 2001,” said Larson.
In 2001, Larson said approximately 50 households received a Christmas Hamper. By the second Christmas it was up to 75 households. The average now is approximately 200 households receiving hampers. The largest number of hampers to go out was in 2009, during the height of the Great Recession. That a year a total of 230 hampers went out.
“It was kind of that downturn in the economy,” Larson said.
While that economic downturn happened more than five years ago, it may be responsible for the continued increase in community and businesses supporting the Christmas Hamper Program in Revelstoke. Even this year, businesses are jumping on board to support the program for the first time.
“Acklands Grainger are taking their Christmas Party money and they are going to buy gifts for seniors, which is something they wanted to do,” said Larson. “They have a little donation box sitting on the counter. That’s a small business that we don’t really know a lot about and they’ve really stepped up.”
Larson said this year, it seems every where she goes, something is happening in support of the Christmas Hamper Program. It’s nearly impossible to include everyone who donates to the program – so much so that even Larson has to refer to her extensive list of notes.
From the Whiteout Party, which is a huge fundraiser, to the nicely decorated donation box at Barton Insurance providing people an alternate location to drop of food donations (the other drop off spots are Coopers, Pharmasave, and the Christmas Hamper Depot). CIBC is doing its Angel Tree Program again, and other financial institutions in town are participating in raising food and donations for the program. As well, all of the school’s are participating in food drives.
This year, there is also a pyjama drive happening, which will see children from families in need receive a new pair of pyjamas, socks, and underwear.
On December 18, there will be a radio-day with EZ Rock’s Shaun Aquiline.
“He will be doing interviews, promoting the food bank, encouraging people to make their last minute. donations,” said Larson.
Donations can be made online community-connections.ca/foodbank/ways-to-donate/ or by stopping by the Christmas Hamper Depot, which is located in the basement of the Revelstoke Legion, 600 1st Street West.