Volunteers helping at last year’s Salvation Army annual Christmas hamper pick up. This year the location of the pick up has changed and it will span over a couple of days.                                Western News file photo

Volunteers helping at last year’s Salvation Army annual Christmas hamper pick up. This year the location of the pick up has changed and it will span over a couple of days. Western News file photo

Christmas Hamper distribution changes location

Cost of renting Penticton Trade and Convention Centre not the reason for moving, says mayor

Rumours that high rental rates drove the Salvation Army’s annual Christmas Hamper distribution from the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre aren’t true, according to both the church and the city.

Related: Video: Christmas comes early for those who need it most

Traditionally, the distribution takes place from the large venue of the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre. But Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said the cost of renting the centre wasn’t the reason for the move to the Salvation Army Church on South Main Street from Dec. 18-20.

“In the past, we’ve always given them a grant for that. It is not a money issue because they have never had to pay for it,” said Jakubeit. “I am pretty confident council would have supported that this year.”

Major Tim Leslie added: “They (city) did call three weeks ago and said we’ll give you the convention centre if you need it, they were wanting to give it to me. All these rumours have been floating around that there’s bad blood between us and the city and council but nothing could be further from the truth, they’ve been wonderful with us.”

Jim Bauer, Penticton’s chief financial officer, confirmed the city has given the Salvation Army a grant to use the convention centre in the past.

“They have received a grant for the last three years from the city,” said Bauer, noting that amounted to $6,000 in 2015, $6,525 in 2016, and $6,851 was budgeted in the 2017 financial plan.

During this year’s budget discussions, Bauer noted the Salvation Army had not applied for their usual facilities grant.

“The Salvation Army did not put forward a request for funding for facility use for Christmas hampers, in lieu of that request, they put forward this one,” said Bauer during the Nov. 30 budget meeting, referring to a $25,000 funding request for a volunteer co-ordinator.

Responding to questions from council, revenue supervisor Amber Coates said the Salvation Army told her the hamper program was ongoing, but they had found an alternate facility.

Jakubeit said Rene van der Meijden, the church’s Community Ministries director, told him they were looking forward to the change as a chance to connect more intimately with the people they were serving.

Related: Penticton students prepare for this year’s 10,000 Tonight

“They can actually spend 10 minutes with each family and greet them, put a face to the name and actually wish them a Merry Christmas, see who they are helping versus this big assembly line and in and out,” said Jakubeit.

Leslie noted the decision to use the Salvation Army Church was made six to eight months earlier and described the move as a “win-win” situation.

“I think using our church will work and I think it might actually be a little better for our clients because they won’t be standing outside for half a day waiting to get their hampers because we’ll be dividing it up in three days,” he said. “It will also be more intimate. We can maybe chat with people if they want and there’s not so much of a lineup and we’ll put out some hot chocolate and goodies.”

Leslie added that as in the past there will be volunteers available to give hamper recipients a ride home if needed. As well, again this year gift certificates rather than frozen items and perishable will be given out.

“It gives them (clients) more choices, you hand some people eggs and turkeys and things and they’re living in a motel room and they really can’t deal with it anyway,” he said. “There are lots of things you can buy so they can get themselves something more suitable.”

It’s estimated that as many as 800 hampers will be given out.

Hampers for the first day’s distribution (Dec. 18) will be packed Dec. 15 at the church by staff and volunteers.

Those hampers (about 300) will then be delivered by special needs organizations like the brain injury society to their clients.

Singles will pick up their hampers that afternoon and the following two days families will receive theirs.

Related: 95 years of Sally Ann in Penticton