Christmas charity drives near end

NANAIMO – Hamperville and other organizations wrap up donation gathering programs and get set for holiday distribution.

Food banks and warehouse centres are wrapping up the gathering phase of their programs as they swing into distribution mode for the holidays.

Hamperville, operating this year from Laird/Wheaton GM Group’s old Madill building on Bowen Road, has gathered and sorted food since mid-November and its 300 volunteers started distributing hampers Wednesday.

Jim Duddridge, Hamperville spokesman, said it looks like donation totals will be lower this year compared to 2011, which was a bumper year for donations that piled up 57,000 kg of food plus $45,000 in cash used to buy fresh food, such as turkeys, chickens, hams, oranges, potatoes, carrots, bread, milk, cheese and eggs.

Food is still coming in until Friday (Dec. 21) and some Nanaimo high schools have yet to bring their contributions, but it looks like donations will be down in 2012. As of Tuesday 45,500 kg of food had been brought in, which included 6,800 kg of food from Hamperville’s single biggest contributor Big Boys Toys.

Monetary donations might be up this year, though, with $19,000 in cash donations so far – that figure converts to about $23,000 with food retailer discounts – brought in by the end of last week, showing a higher figure than for the same period last year.

This year’s food donations alone represent $275,000 worth of groceries.

“That’s just food,” Duddridge said. “Then you add in our cash to that and we’re up to $300,000, so that’s a hell of a lot of generosity there.”

This year’s figures mean no one will go without a food hamper and the worst case scenario is that there could be less food left over to carry food banks into the new year than there was in 2011. There are other opportunities for people to share with others before Christmas.

Wal-Mart will match all donations made at the Salvation Army Kettle stationed at its front doors today (Dec. 20) – an opportunity for people with a little spare change to double their donations.

Cowichan Food Connection’s Bread Van is an organization of volunteers which has operated since 1996, bringing bread to food banks and other locations where food is needed.

The organization has moved its bread warehouse pick up point to Nanaimo and now includes weekly drops to the Salvation Army and Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank and Tillicum Lelum Aboriginal Friendship Centre in Nanaimo plus other locations north of the Malahat.

Upwards of 3,000 loaves are donated and delivered weekly and all operating costs, such as cellphone bills and fuel, are covered by community donations, which are down this year. Charles Lukas, the organization’s director of operations, said donations of cash or fuel vouchers are welcome.

“We can give them tax receipts and if they want to give us money then they can get their name on the truck,” Lukas said.

To donate or learn more about Cowichan Food Connection, please visit http://cowichanfoodconnection.com or contact Kim Sayer at 1-250-856-0046 or via e-mail at office@cowichannewsleader.com.

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