For the past two days inside the crowded Salvation Army Church hall volunteers have been busy preparing for next week’s Christmas hamper distribution.
Among the 30 people packing boxes with needed foodstuffs Friday was first-time volunteer Dolly Kruger, someone who knows only too well how much those hampers mean at this time of year.
“I’ve had to use food services in the past myself and I know a lot of people who have had to at this time of year apply for Christmas hampers and also apply to the food bank in general and it definitely did make a difference,” said Kruger during a break from filling the shopping carts from the mountains of produce and canned goods available. “It definitely did make a difference (for me) and for me it’s a good way to give back to the community and to know that I’m helping community members who are in need this time of year.”
In previous years the packing and distribution of the hampers took place at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre but that changed this year after the Salvation Army did not apply for the grant it had received in other years.
Don Oakes was another first timer at the church who decided to get involved at the suggestion of a friend when he was dropping some goods off at the food bank one day.
“There’s a lot of wonderful people of all demographics and all ages coming out and volunteers and the volunteers are a cross section of society,” said Oakes. “We’re here to help those who perhaps might need some assistance.”
Just over half of the more than 700 hampers this year will go out Monday. About 200 will go to special needs groups such as the South Okanagan Similkameen Brain Injury Society in the morning and in the afternoon another 200 will go to the singles who registered earlier.
According to Major Tim Leslie of the Salvation Army, singles make up the largest number of hamper recipient, roughly about a third.
“About half the singles are seniors,” said Leslie. “You may think it’s lots of people on social assistance but there are a lot of working people in Penticton who are just not making enough to make ends meet.
“Food bank is really for emergencies but some people are just in an emergency all the time because the bulk of their money is going to pay the rent and they have no money for groceries. They just can’t afford to eat.”
He had nothing but praise for the estimated 200 volunteers who will give of their time this season to help those in need.
“Penticton is a wonderful community and people really want to help,” said Leslie. “Christmas time is a great for us. People seem to come out of the woodwork wanting to help with the kettles and all the things we do at Christmas.
He estimated it takes about $550,000 annually to fund the various programs.
Packing and distribution will continue next week and will include hampers going out to small families Tuesday and the final day, Wednesday, larger families will receive theirs.
Like last year, instead of being included in the hampers items like turkey and ham have been replaced by gift certificates to better facilitate the needs of recipients.