Last year we wrapped up our fourth decade of providing hampers for those in need in the North Island. We continue to move forward, but in a much different way with the current pandemic.
Despite not being employed at the Gazette for the past six years I have remained as the president because it is an important cause that I enjoy being a part of. It is a great way to give back to our North Island communities and it has become a tradition for my family.
The first time I delivered hampers in 1995 was very touching for me. The mom that we delivered to burst into tears, hugged me and was very thankful that we brought her food and a gift for her child that she otherwise wouldn’t have had that Christmas! I will never forget that moment! That is one of the many reasons why I continue to volunteer my time every season.
It is a huge undertaking within a very short time frame however an amazing crew of volunteers makes it happen each and every year.
In 1980 Brian Welchman and Roland Shanks started the Gazette Hamper Fund and in 1984 formed the society it is today. During the first year of the Hamper Fund, nearly $3,000 was raised so more than two dozen families could enjoy a better Christmas.
Times have changed since then, but the need has not.
Last year 580 hampers were delivered from Port Alice to Zeballos, including Woss, Alert Bay, Sointula, Gilford Island and Kingcome Inlet. That represented a total of 1667 individuals! The need is definitely great!
This season with the pandemic things are going to look much different to keep our volunteers and recipients safe. We have decided to move to online hamper applications only to keep the foot traffic down.
COVID-19 has affected us all in different ways. Some community members have had their work hours decreased or lost their jobs entirely.
We are expecting an increase in applications and a possible decrease in donations as restrictions have made it so there is very little community fundraising events being held.
That is why the Gazette Hamper Fund is here, to help out with some of the basics over the holidays.
We provide single and family hampers. We also provide toys for children 12 and under. It’s not extravagant by any means but definitely covers the basics for a full dinner.
Our financial goal this year is $35,000.
We are very thankful for the usual donations that come rolling in during this time of the year. From businesses big and small, individuals, kids donating their birthday money, hockey teams, churches, schools, First Nation Bands, non-profit organizations and groups like the Lions, Lioness and rotary clubs, to mention a few. This year has its uncertainties, but I continue to remain positive that we can raise enough funds to meet our goal.
In the past 25 years that I have been involved, we have raised more than $630,000, which has entirely gone back into North Island communities and their businesses! Local businesses give us great discounts, as well as displaying our coin buckets and donation drop boxes for the toy drive.
The other amazing part of the hamper fund is that such a small team of hard-working, dedicated volunteers and their helpers get the job done every year.
The 2020 Hamper board consists of 10 members, and each member usually rounds up a team of volunteers.
This is where things this year will be different for us. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we will not be having community groups and individuals help wrap and deliver the hampers. The fewer number of volunteers, increases safety. We will be limiting the delivery and toy gift wrapping volunteers in each community to be strictly Lions and Lioness members only. Thank you, Lions!
Each of the First Nation bands will be delivering to their communities, Lions members will be delivering in Port Alice and Sointula. Alert Bay recipients will pick up from ShopRite and the rest of the recipients will be picking up in person at the Port Hardy Civic Centre and the Port McNeill Lions Hall.
All the while we will be having safety procedures in effect, social distancing and face masks must be worn. Recipients picking up their hampers will need to provide photo ID. All application forms must be completed online no later than Nov. 27.
This year hampers will be delivered/picked up on Saturday, December 12th, starting at 10 a.m. If yours is being delivered, you must be home to receive a hamper.
As President of the Gazette Hamper Fund, I would like you all to know how thankful and appreciative we are to all those who continue to help make the hamper fund season a success; the donators, the volunteers and the past and present board members.
We will definitely miss the interaction with all of our usual volunteers this year!
Stay safe, be kind and wash your hands!
Gazette Hamper Fund President