Charities hope for Christmas miracle

NANAIMO – Low donation numbers have local charities concerned but hopeful with two weeks to Christmas.

Loyd Sherry

Loyd Sherry

All they want for Christmas is a little help from their friends.

With just over two weeks to go before Christmas and with numbers down across the board, Nanaimo’s local charities are feeling the pressure but remain hopeful the Harbour City will pull through for  families and pets in need.

“Quite simply, we need the food,” said Jim Duddridge, Christmas Hamper Program spokesman. “This is the first time in Nanaimo since I’ve been doing this that I’ve been at a point where I say we’re going to be hard pressed to get enough food in here.

“We’ve got time to turn it around but if we don’t reverse this trend soon, we’re going to be in trouble.”

The Christmas Hamper Program, in partnership with the Salvation Army and Loaves and Fishes food bank, collects, organizes and distributes hampers to registered families and individuals. This year, while registrations are down, Duddridge said he still anticipates more than 2,000 hampers will be handed out, helping more than 5,000 residents.

Duddridge estimated there is a 6,000-kilogram deficit from the amount of food collected this time last year.

“We’re still forecasting we’re going to be low enough in food that we probably will have to cut back on some of the hampers,” he said. “The amount of food we’re asking them to stretch over 10 days is challenging.

“The good news is we have lots of volunteers helping and sorting.”

For ideas on how to donate, please visit www.hamperville, or call 250-751-9780.

Donations are also down for the Great Nanaimo Toy Drive, said director Carolyn Iles.

“It appears to be somewhat slower than collections have been in previous years, but we’re sure Nanaimo will come through in the next couple of weeks,” she said. “We could really use cash donations if people are too busy to purchase toys. This helps us top up the toys in various age categories wherein toys are not donated.”

The toys will be distributed Dec. 19-20. In the meantime, drive organizers will work on setting up the distribution centre.

Donations of new toys can be taken to Woodgrove Centre, North Town Centre, Country Club Centre, all Nanaimo fire halls, Coastal Community Credit Unions and the Port Theatre.

One of the toy drive’s biggest revenue generators is the Nanaimo News Bulletin’s Pennies for Presents campaign, which collects change to give to the toy drive, the Nanaimo Boys and Girls Club and the Salvation Army to ensure no child is left empty handed at Christmas time.

“We think that this is going to be a good year,” said Jenn McGarrigle, campaign coordinator. “Since the federal government is phasing out use of the penny, we hope people looking to rid themselves of the copper coins will donate them. If everyone gives a little, it goes a long way for the children in our community.”

For a list of penny drop-off points, please go to

Meanwhile, the Salvation Army’s Dawne Anderson is looking for more volunteers to help cover 100 kettle shifts a day (please see related story, page 4).

The answer as to why donations are down is a mystery to local charity organizers.

“I think it takes a bit for some people to get into the Christmas spirit,” Anderson said. “Nanaimo is awesome at their donating so I’m hoping they pull through for us.”

Those inclined to help our furry friends in the yuletide season should take note that the Nanaimo SPCA does not take donations of dry food.

“Hills Science Diet have, for a couple of years now, been donating as much food as the animals can eat for free,” said Leon Davis, branch manager. “So to keep them on a consistent diet, we don’t feed them other brands of donated food.”

He added that dry food donations that do come to the shelter are given to the Loaves and Fishes food bank for distribution in the hamper program.

The SPCA will gratefully accept donations of things like clean towels, pet toys, cleaning supplies, paper towel, wet (canned) dog and cat food, and printer paper. With the ringworm outbreak that occurred earlier this year, the shelter was set back about $20,000 and every little donation helps the bottom line.

“I know it’s not very sexy to donate office supplies but we have to have record management for every animal and all their medical stuff,” Davis said.

The Nanaimo SPCA is looking to adopt approximately 100 of the animals in care between Nov. 25 and Dec. 25. Davis said they are about 60 adoptions away from that goal, with 86 animals currently in care.

“It’s ambitious,” Davis said. “To adopt 60 animals in a month is kind of average, so to do it in [less than] three weeks, I think is very do-able.”

Davis added that while the SPCA does not encourage animals to be given as Christmas gifts, the holidays can be a good time for a family to make a collective, responsible decision to bring a new pet into the home, when there is plenty of time to spend on helping it get settled.

For those wanting more ways to give, the Canadian Blood Services is happy to take your blood.

Its province-wide ‘Bleed and Feed’ program, now in its third year, runs at the Beban Park Social Centre Dec. 18-20.

Book a donation appointment by visiting or calling 1-888-236-6283 and bring along a non-perishable food item.