Christmas Hamper Success

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Welcome to the Christmas Hamper Program.

I can hardly believe how quickly the last couple of weeks have flown by. It seems like only yesterday that I was sorting through mail at the Christmas Bureau and anticipating the excitement that occurs with the Christmas Hamper program. I didn’t know then just how massive an undertaking the Christmas Hamper program is, and how amazing our community is for responding to a need and making this project happen.

So the Christmas Hamper program has come to a close. If you haven’t already guessed, it’s been a whirlwind! The official numbers are in, and this year was yet another record breaker. With over 3,875 hampers delivered, 10,250 people in Kitchener-Waterloo received food, hope and compassion this Christmas season. In addition to these hampers, we also distributed 3,000 turkeys and 500 hams.

Looks like a lot, doesn't it? These boxes represent only a fraction of the total number of hampers that were distributed this year.

Last year we delivered 3,625 hampers, and we anticipated a similar, if not slightly smaller number this year. You can imagine our surprise (and concern) upon receiving 250 more requests for hampers than we were expecting, and the scramble that ensued as we attempted to meet those requests. With the program now over, and as we breathe a sigh of relief, it is important to reflect on what and who makes this program the success that it is.

Like so many of the projects that happen within House of Friendship, the task of providing Christmas assistance is dependent on the support of volunteers. This year between Christmas Hampers and the Turkey Drive, 650 people contributed their time and energy completing the many jobs that characterize this program.

Beginning on December 6, the warehouse was alive with people who soon became (if they weren’t already) expert hamper packers. For six consecutive days, this human assembly line filled 840 hampers per morning, using 12,673 boxes in the process.

One smiling, expert hamper packer.

But before the packing can begin, bulk items need to be repacked into smaller amounts. We had an impressive number of individuals and groups assist with this. In this picture is a group from RIM.

We have many returning volunteers, many of whom have been volunteering with this program for over a decade. This is true of Carl Bushe, a volunteer who is an integral part of the packing line.

Doug Sullivan, who was usually at the warehouse before anyone else, is another volunteer who dedicates many hours to this program. We could not do it without people like him!

On top of the jobs that contribute to the making of a hamper, there are other tasks, which are more logistical in nature, that ensure the whole process runs smoothly. One major job is largely completed by the mysterious Richard Dyck, who organizes our delivery routes. Although he was rarely seen, Richard compiles the requests we receive into neat and logical routes so that volunteer drivers only have to visit one area of town to complete their deliveries.

Volunteers are also invaluable in organizing the vouchers for turkeys and groceries that are pictured here. These are stuffed in envelopes, which are eventually matched with a specific hamper.

There are so many others who were simply not caught on camera. This includes the many tireless drivers, like Greg van Horne who was with us until the very end of the program. The overwhelming response of people willing to deliver hampers was incredible, and enabled the distribution of all our hampers in the short span of eight days.

This also includes the wonderful volunteers who braved the cold at the locations where turkeys were being handed out. These people too, demonstrated their committment to serving our community. When one woman arrived to collect her turkey with a flat tire, turkey drive volunteers moved into action to help repair it.

Members of the Waterloo Regional Police were on hand to help distribute turkeys, pictured here with Jim Erb in the middle and John Neufeld on the far right.

The turkey distribution is also indebted to a number of key contributors. A big thanks to Erb & Good Funeral Home and First Mennonite Church for hosting the sites where turkeys could be picked up. Another thanks to the Car and Truck Dealers Association of KW for their donation of bus tickets for people picking up turkeys. Finally, thank you to Erb Transportation for loaning us the use of 2 refrigerated trucks for the turkey distribution.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Another major aspect of this program’s success is the partnership that exists with the Rotary Club of Kitchener Conestoga. The money they raise through their annual Turkey Drive sponsors the turkeys and food products, and we could not do it without them.

Kitchener mayor, Carl Zehr addresses members of the Rotary Club on December 10. On this day, the warehouse was extra busy as the members of the Rotary Club gathered to celebrate the success of their fundraising efforts through the Turkey Drive.

Waterloo mayor, Brenda Halloran also addresses the Rotary members.

On top of all of this, Rockway Mennonite Collegiate also contributes in a special way to our program by providing food that they collect through their annual food drive.

A sample of the bounty of food that Rockway Mennonite students contributed this year.

Not only did they collect an outstanding amount of food to be used in the hampers, the Rockway choir also graced us at the warehouse with their melodies as volunteers worked the assembly line.

There are many more stories and photos that I could share from the past four weeks, but it would still not properly reflect the generosity of our community and all the individuals who were involved.  If you want to see more of the story click here to see recent coverage on our Youtube channel.

Now, the warehouse is an empty, lonely place compared to its lively state of only a few days past. Though it is strange to see it this way, we are thankful. The emptiness of the warehouse is an indication of the hard work of so many people, whose help means that all those Christmas hampers are instead resting with deserving families.

Good-bye Christmas Hampers. Thanks to everyone who got it to this point!

Merry Christmas!

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2 Responses to “Christmas Hamper Success”

  1. 2010 and a new year at the Food Hamper Hamper Program « Hofemergencyfoodassistance's Blog Says:

    […] and fielding phone calls constantly. As we’ve already detailed Christmas Hampers was a huge success but also, busier than […]

  2. Michael Hackbusch Says:

    Absolutely wonderful! May I also add that for each day of hamper packing there were a handful of individuals and groups from local Churches who volunteered to provide soup, some times for 25 hungry volunteers, sometimes for 75!

    Thanks for the care, compassion and enthusiasm… and the joy of serving our neighbours in love and friendship.

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