Hampers help spread holiday cheer

Salvation Army distributes more than 800 hampers to those in need in Penticton

Volunteer Shane McKone helps Norm Henderson with his Christmas hamper in the parking lot of the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre Wednesday during the annual Salvation Army food distribution.

Norm Henderson struggles to make ends meet for much of the year, which is why Christmas is such a blessing.

Thanks to the Salvation Army, it is the one time of year he and many others can open the refrigerator and cupboard doors and find the shelves filled with healthy food items they might otherwise not be able to afford.

“This is just so important to get this stuff because all I’ve got is old age pension, and by the time I pay for rent and things, I don’t have much left,” said the 79-year-old who has only limited mobility due to a hip injury. “They are so good to me here, they even moved me to the front of the line so I could get through faster.

“If it wasn’t for this I wouldn’t have anything at all. I want to say to them thank you very much.”

Just over 800 hampers, each including a frozen turkey, were given out to those in need Wednesday at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre.

The doors opened at 9:20 a.m. and the lineup outside the door and along the sidewalk remained constant for much of the morning.

And while he doesn’t have a lot of spare change, Henderson always tries to drop a coin or two in the Sally Ann kettles whenever possible as a way of giving back.

“I’m never going to be rich unless I win the lottery, but giving something to them makes me feel richer,” he said.

For Samantha (who asked her last name not be used), the food is very important, but so are the small stuffed bear and brightly coloured doll house under her arm.

“So much of my money goes just to pay for the necessities, I really can’t afford to get them many toys,” she said nodding to the two youngsters in tow. “It just seems like their friends get so many things and I feel bad I can’t do more.

“This does mean a lot, it’s an incredible help and we get a turkey, too.”

Shane McKone is employed by the Salvation Army but today is working as a volunteer wherever needed.

“It’s a wonderful experience because this is what the Salvation Army is all about,” he said while standing in the parking lot during a break in the action. “This is what we do and this is our day to shine by giving to the less fortunate in the community.

“The folks in line here are really grateful they can get these offerings from the community and we’re just glad to be a part of it.”

Working behind the scenes in the assembly line filling the hampers is Bob Handley, another of the more than 30 volunteers.

“I love doing this and it’s great to know these people in need are being helped at least a little bit,” he said.

Overseeing the operation again this year was Christine Simmons, Salvation Army community ministries director.

“It’s going fine, we’re quite busy,” she said. “It’s up a little bit over last year, lots of families, lots of seniors have come to us this year for our assistance and we’re just glad to help.”