Dec. 17 is the date the North Island Gazette Hamper Fund volunteers will don their Santa hats and deliver food and toys to ensure everyone is able to sit down for a Christmas meal.
The Gazette Hamper Fund was started in 1980 by Brian Welchman and Roland Shanks and the society was formed in 1984.
During the first year of the Hamper Fund, nearly $3,000 was raised so more than two dozen families could enjoy a better Christmas. The funds were used to purchase turkeys, clothes, gifts and groceries for 30 mostly-single families facing Christmas with virtually nothing.
Those 30 families included 123 children. Unfortunately, the need has grown over the years.
For 2016, the Gazette has received 273 family applications, and 283 single applications, for a total of 562 hampers.
This is down from a record 684 hampers last year, and up slightly from 2014 when over 550 hampers were delivered.
Port Hardy, Port McNeill and Port Alice are the main command centres on delivery day, however hampers are delivered to Woss, Zeballos, Alert Bay, Gilford Island and Kincome Inlet. Grocery stores do the food ordering and box packing and presents are wrapped in Port Hardy and Port McNeill.
The hampers contain ham or turkey, depending on whether they are going to a family or singles, and all the fixings for Christmas dinner as well as coffee, cereal, peanut butter, juice and fresh fruit.
On delivery day, many volunteers show up to lend a hand including the Port Hardy Fire Department, Lions Clubs, Masons, parents with their kids, businesses with work trucks, band members and Rotarians.
Today, the annual fund-raising goal is $30,000, however with growing demand and increased food costs, this might need to be increased in the future.
The North Island responds generously to this campaign each year, with numerous fundraisers held by local groups, schools, businesses, First Nation bands, hockey teams, service clubs and churches as well as donations from individuals.
Boxes for toys and containers for change are also placed around the North Island and collected just before Christmas each year.
Local businesses always give great discounts which helps the donated money go farther. Without this kind of support the Hamper program would not be possible.