Penticton families receive Christmas cheer with hampers

Seven-month-old Braxton Noel’s first Christmas will be a happy one after all.

Braxton Noel reaches out for the stuffed Santa while he and mom Kaylee wait for their ride after picking up a holiday hamper at the annual Salvation Army Christmas sharing event at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre

Seven-month-old Braxton Noel’s first Christmas will be a happy one after all.

Once again thanks to the Salvation Army and the hundreds of volunteers and other community supporters of the organization’s annual Christmas hamper program there will be food on the table and a gift under the family tree.

“My husband just got laid off, so otherwise we wouldn’t be able to have Christmas right now,” said Braxton’s mom Kaylee Thursday morning after picking up her hamper at the Penticton Trade and Convention. “I get to celebrate my son’s first Christmas the way I want to.”

Along with a turkey and all the trimmings, the gift baskets going to families with children also included a special gift or two and other necessities.

Bruce Wind, who is currently on a disability pension, was another of the more than 700 people who received the hampers.

“It does a lot for the community and people that don’t have a lot of extra cash, especially around Christmas time,” Wind said. “It helps just to be able to survive. On disability you don’t make a lot of money and welfare is even worse.

“These guys do a wonderful job every year and it’s appreciated.”

For much of the morning the line of people extended outside the doors at the west side of the centre as people patiently waited their turn.

Inside there were plenty of smiles as one by one they collected, what to many, was probably the nicest gift they will receive this Christmas.

In addition to the volunteers doing the actual distribution, there was an army of people behind the scenes who were packing the hampers. At each station of the assembly line in the back hall, items were added to the boxes for those who had registered for the program earlier. In addition to those volunteers were the many people who donated their time and vehicles to help those who did not have transportation home with their packages.

According to Joey Cyr, supervisor for community and family Services at the Salvation Army, said the number of hampers was down slightly from past programs.

“I don’t think those numbers really make a difference because I think there is still a growing need out there, we’re seeing 5,000 people a month coming through our doors,” said Cyr. “Again, as always we’re seeing more seniors and that population here and costs just keep going up and this year we have over 300 toys for kids.”

He added it is actually very important for children to receive the toys.

“It really makes Christmas for them, especially when all their friends are all getting toys,” Cyr said. “It also brings a lot of Christmas cheer to the kids who might otherwise not get anything.

“I know that our volunteers down at Toy Town try to just do the very best they can to make it special for every child and thanks to things like the Be an Angel program, Wal Mart and Canadian Tire and others we are able to make that happen.”

Donations of food and cash are doing well and the kettle program has actually been picking up lately which, he hopes will continue.

The contributions made to the Salvation Army at this time of year often extend well into the spring months. He also had special praise for all of the people who give their time to help others through the organization.

“We really appreciate the response and generosity of our community. It’s so great to live in such a giving community,” said Cyr.

Because of these people it will be a joyous Noel for many families, especially Braxton’s.

-With files from Dale Boyd