North Islanders came through in a big way this year as the 33rd annual Gazette Hamper Fund drive wrapped up with deliveries of Christmas hampers last Saturday.
In all, local residents, businesses and service organizations contributed more than $31,500 and filled 558 hampers with food and toys to bring a happy holiday to needy North Island families.
Donations that began trickling in as early as October peaked in a tsunami of cash and cheques in the final weeks.
Marketplace IGA of Port McNeill added a cheque for $2,568.37 to the pot, and a raffle by the Island’s End Quilter’s Guild raised another $1,117.07 for the hamper fund.
Raffle winners were Peta Kelly (quilt), Bob Wheeler (table runner) and Ray Patriquin (bag and cupcakes).
Meanwhile, a small battallion of volunteers, including Hamper Fund board members and their children, gift-wrapped hundreds of toys and sorted thousands of food items into boxes for distribution in and around Port Hardy Saturday.
In Port McNeill, Lions Club members filled hampers that were sent off to Alert Bay Thursday, Guilford and Kingcome Inlet Friday, and Port McNeill, Zeballos and Woss on Saturday.
There were other acts of generosity in the final week of the drive.
Port Hardy’s Brian Robichaud found himself the winner of a mountain bike in a convenience store draw, and promptly wheeled the bike into the Gazette office to donate to the fund.
“I grew up in a Salvation Army household,” said Robichaud. “This is a special time of year to me.”
Port Hardy Secondary School held a monthlong food drive for the hamper fund, with teachers and staff offering their hair, whiskers and dignity in challenges if the students met collection goals.
Denny Seto of Seto’s Wok and Grill put the students over the top when he arrived with a truck filled with more than a thousand food items on the final day of the drive.
Hardy Buoys Seafood gave out free samples of smoked salmon while donating a portion of sales at Overwaitea to the fund.