WRITTEN BY SANDY GRENIER
As I compose my thoughts and wrap up another season of the Gazette Hamper Fund, I’m reminded that this completes the 42nd year. Personally, I’ve been involved for 27 years and the president for the past 10. This has been a very rewarding and humbling experience for me.
For many years I have provided a write up to the North Island Gazette. This will be the last one, as I have decided that the time has come for me to pass the volunteer torch back to the Gazette, to publisher and fellow rotarian Natasha Griffiths and our dedicated board members. After leaving the Gazette in 2014 as publisher, I decided that I wanted to continue supporting the Hamper Fund. I remained as the president because it meant so much to me to be able to give back to our North Island communities each year. Helping those in need over the holiday season became a tradition for both of my children as they grew up volunteering. It’s so important to show our next generation that a little time and a caring heart goes a long way.
I could sit here and write all day long, telling about the many touching stories over the past 27 years. Some sad, many happy and the experience has been an eye opener for me. In recent years we have noticed that our communities have increased in the number of vulnerable and homeless people, thus the need is even greater. It’s not a lot that we give, however, every little bit helps and it’s appreciated by those that are struggling to make ends meet.
A special note of thanks should go to the Salvation Army, NI Crisis & Counselling Centre and Island Health who help those that need the online assistance to complete their applications.
To recap, 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 $3000 was raised so more than two dozen families could enjoy a better Christmas. Last year hamper applications reached a total of 540. We moved to an online-only application process due to the pandemic. In order to continue providing the service we offer, we decided to go with gift cards rather than actual food items. This way recipients can purchase exactly what they want for a nice holiday dinner. We still continue to give toys to children 12 and under. We give $50 cards to singles and $65 for families. We increased our financial goal to $40,000, as our numbers were higher this year now that everyone is proficient with the online process and more are in need. We made a record this year with 630 applications.
We are very thankful for the usual donations that come rolling in during this time of the year. From businesses big and small, individuals, children donating their birthday money, hockey teams, churches, schools, First Nation Bands, non-profit organizations and groups like the Lions and Rotary Clubs, to mention a few. This year had some uncertainties, but I continue to remain positive that we can raise enough funds to meet our financial goal. So far we are sitting at just over $27,000 in donations. Donations are still being accepted as the bills now start to come in. Donations are accepted all year long and can be made via etransfer to firstname.lastname@example.org, mailing a cheque to The Gazette Hamper Fund, Box 458 Port Hardy, BC V0N 2P0 or dropping off a donation in person to #3-7053 Market Street, Port Hardy.
In the past 27 years that I have been involved, we have raised more than $720,000, which we are very proud to say has gone entirely back into North Island communities and their businesses! We are very appreciative for the local businesses who give us great discounts, as well as displaying our coin buckets and donation drop boxes for the toy drive. The support we receive for our long standing society is truly inspiring. Another 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 2021 Hamper board consists of eight members as well as Lions representatives from Sointula, Port Alice, Port Hardy & Port McNeill.
Since the pandemic hit, the way we normally run things has changed. The most difficult part, I would say, is not having community groups, individuals and organizations volunteer their time by sorting food and wrapping toys as in years past. The fewer number of volunteers in small indoor spaces keeps everyone safer. Again this year we had to limit the toy gift wrappers in each community to be strictly our board members and Lions members only. Big thank you to the North Island Lions Clubs.
Hampers are picked up or delivered depending on each community; Port Alice, Port Hardy, Port McNeill, Coal Harbour, Zeballos, Woss, Alert Bay, Sointula, Gilford Island and Kingcome Inlet. That alone represented over 2269 individuals. Each of the First Nation bands deliver to their own communities and supply their own drivers/transportation. Lions members deliver in Port Alice and Sointula. Alert Bay recipients picked up theirs from ShopRite and the rest of the recipients picked them up in person at the Thunderbird Mall and at the Port McNeill Lions Hall. Recipients picking up their hampers provided ID and practiced Covid-19 safety procedures. This year the majority of hampers were delivered/picked up on Saturday, Dec. 11. One positive that has come from the pandemic is that it has helped us streamline the online application process. Using Google Docs has made it much simpler in finding any doubles or missing applications, sorting by fields such as last name or city, as well as printing recipient lists. Plus the applicants don’t have to travel to fill out an application now that they can apply online.
Every year I’m reminded why I donate my time to this society. This year it was the one recipient who picked up his gift card and thanked us many times for what we do. He told us how appreciative he was and how he was “blown away of how amazingly we put it all together and make it happen year after year.”
That one response makes it all worth it to me. There are many very appreciative recipients who are touched by our society. As President of the Gazette Hamper Fund, I am very thankful and appreciative 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. I can’t express enough how much the overwhelming support from our North Island communities over the many years has meant to me and how you have immensely contributed to the success of our society to be able to reach out and touch more than 10 North Island communities, First Nation bands and over 630 North Island homes! Our Port Hardy Rotary Club, whom I am proud to be a member of, has continued to be one of our biggest supporters. I will cherish all the memories over the years that I have made with the Hamper Fund volunteers, organizations, my family, friends and all the supportive North Islanders.
You all hold a special place in my heart. For that… THANK YOU!
Please consider donating either your time or financially to this incredible society so they can continue to pay it forward to those in need on the North Island.
I wish the North Island Gazette, Natasha and the 2022 Gazette Hamper Fund board all the success for many years to come.
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