With the start of the holiday season also comes the return of the annual Gazette Christmas Hamper Fund.
Now in it’s 41st year of giving back to local communities, North Island Gazette editor Tyson Whitney spoke with hamper fund president Sandy Grenier about all things hamper fund.
Whitney: Overall, how has the 41st Gazette Christmas Hamper Fund season been going so far?
Grenier: This year has been very different than previous years due to the pandemic. We have definitely been struggling trying to find creative ways to still be able to give our North Island recipients their Christmas hampers while following health guidelines and keeping everyone safe.
I’m very thankful to our board members who dedicate so much of their time towards this great cause, giving back to our communities especially during these more than ever difficult times. One of the many changes that we had to make with fewer volunteers is that instead of giving an actual food hamper this year, we will be giving grocery gift cards valued at the price of a single and family hamper, plus toys for the children.
Whitney: Has the hamper fund hit its fundraising goal?
Grenier: Initially the donations were slowly trickling in and because of the pandemic and not being able to hold fundraising events, we were concerned that we might come up a bit short fincancially this year. Although the North Island never ceases to amaze us! Donations have started to increase with some substantial ones from the Loaves & Fishes Food Bank, WFP and the Port Hardy & Port McNeill Rotary Clubs and their members. We are feeling more confident and so appreciative in hopes that we will make our 2020 financial goal, thanks to so many generous individuals, businesses, clubs and organizations! We are also so grateful for the huge toy drive that was held last year by ‘The Zone’ radio station in Victoria. Without those generously donated toys we would have had to start this season with very little.
Whitney: Are you in need of any volunteers?
Grenier: Unfortunately we have had to limit the number of people helping out, keeping our bubbles as small as possible.
The main volunteers making it happen this year are the Lions Club members in each of the communities and our small group of board members.
This has had a huge impact not only on our small crew but also for the regular volunteers and groups that usually like to help out wrapping toys and delivering, we had to turn them away.
They have definitely been missed!
Another change that we made is the way that the hampers are given out. All North Island First Nation communities will be picking up and delivering their own hampers to their band members (most already do) but the rest of the recipients will be picking up in person at the Port Hardy Civic Centre and Port McNeill Lions Hall during designated times. This will help keep the foot traffic to a minimum for safe social distancing. Please see the North Island Gazette’s Facebook page and Hamper Fund section of this week’s newspaper for more specific details.
Whitney: What does it mean to you personally to run the hamper fund every year?
Grenier: I am proud to say that this will be my 26th year being involved with the Gazette Hamper Fund, it has become a tradition for my family.
It has always meant so much to me since day one, helping those in need who otherwise might not have a nice dinner and toys for their children over the holidays.
What is also very meaningful to me is how so many individuals, clubs, organizations, businesses and First Nation communities team up and work together, making it successful!
Thank you and Merry Christmas!