For those who have little, Christmas can be difficult, at best, but Thursday nearly 900 people were able to experience the true meaning of the season thanks to the Salvation Army.
In the line up outside the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre Thursday morning there were plenty of smiles, the sound of laughter and the occasional hug as the less fortunate waited for the annual hamper distribution to begin.
Near the front of the line were twins Melanie and Marilyn Moi in matching pink winter coats and blue toques and scarves.
In spite of their smiles, this Christmas is going to be especially tough because for the first time in their lives it will not be spent with one or both parents, having lost their father earlier this year.
“It’s very lonely without our mom and dad now,” said Marilyn with the hustle and bustle of hampers going out the door around her. “But the people here are so nice. They are like family. We know so many of them and this is just a world of help to us, we’ve been running on just about empty for awhile and this food is really going to help us out a lot.”
Her sister agreed: “This is nice because it gets a lot of people together and this time of year we get a little depressed and low on food so this really helps us out.”
Bundled up from head to toe against the cold outside temperature, Les and Christine Mason were also at the centre to pick up their hamper.
In her motorized wheelchair, Christine struggled to find the words to express her appreciation to the hundreds of people, some of who work months, to make this day possible.”
“I really is just so nice what they do and it just so much to all of these people you see coming through the door,” she said. “I just really want to say thank you to everyone, you can’t know how much it means.”
Salvation Army pastor Major Miriam Leslie welcomed people at 9 a.m. as the doors opened and offered a prayer in the quiet foyer.
Read more: Food bank wants your canned food donations
“This year the need is so great and that’s why the hampers are a little bit bigger and that is because it’s been a tough year for people,” said Leslie. “For the last number of months we have been seeing on average five new clients registering a day and they are not all people typical of who you might think would need the food bank. There are people who are working and can’t make ends meet, seniors who can’t make it on their pensions.
“This (hamper distribution) is kind of like Christmas coming early but it’s more than just a handout, it’s a friendship and really a celebration of Christmas.”
She offered her own thanks to the community for the hard working volunteers who happily give of their time as well as those who donate goods and drop some change in the Christmas kettles.
“We cannot say thank you enough,” said Leslie. “I sound like a broken record, but we so appreciate the community.”
Gail Kronlaphner is one of the volunteers the pastor refers to as one of her “Christmas angels.”
One of the front line crew who registers people during the months before the distribution, she also greets them at the door when they come to pick up their hampers.
“I love doing this because the need is so great. I get a first-hand view of the problems these people have and the lack of support systems,” she said. “The people are wonderful and so grateful and they are in such great spirits when they come in.
“For some of them, especially the newly poor, it’s so hard for them to walk in the door and ask for help. I see so many people who have so many challenges they have to deal with and my heart just goes out to them and if there is anything I can do to help, I’m happy to do it.”
Also on Thursday, the Salvation Army headed out to Cawston to deliver hampers.