Powell River and District Christmas Cheer committee has been making holidays bright for families in need for more than 60 years. The annual event started with a few hampers in Robert and Augusta Long’s basement in 1948.
Committee president Sandra Carmen has been in charge for 18 years, but 2017 will be her last. With 252 hampers planned for this year, the task to fill and deliver the hampers is huge, according to Carmen.
“When I started they used to give out about 120 hampers,” said Carmen. “Our donation base and everything as a whole has doubled.”
To help families who are just getting by, Carmen said the only way for the committee to continue the annual campaign is through municipal and district grants, donations and filling the demand for more volunteers every year.
Businesses, organizations and families can also participate in the popular Adopt-A-Family program. Families contact program coordinator Lesley Ford, who then matches families with a sponsor.
“Once the sponsors are notified of the names of their families, they contact the family and ask questions, such as the age of the children, are there any food allergies or diet preferences and what gifts would be appropriate for the children,” said Ford. “We generally manage to help between 25 to 30 families through this program each year.”
Need for the spirit of generosity is a sign of the times, according to Carmen. She said she has received applications from 100 families and hopes others will not leave their requests until the last minute.
“That puts a great burden on us because the applications have to be processed,” said Carmen.
When Carmen’s last year as president is complete, Geri Anderson, who joined project last year, will take on the role. After moving to Powell River, Anderson said she saw community volunteer opportunities everywhere and thought there was probably something she could help with over the holidays.
“This is one that came up and, of course, Sandra snagged me right away,” said Anderson, adding that she is relieved Carmen is around to guide her through managing the effort.
Carmen has worked to create a system over the years for volunteers to follow.
“Everybody knows what they're doing and do whatever they have to do,” said Carmen.
Once involved, Anderson said she had no idea of the level of need in Powell River.
“It's a great cause and I want to be involved,” she said.
Deadline to submit applications for a Christmas hamper is Thursday, December 7.
Families, couples and individuals living together are eligible for hampers, which contain food, gift certificates and toys. Organizations, companies, families and individuals are invited to donate funds, toys and gifts, and participate in the Adopt-A-Family program.
For more information about Powell River and District Christmas Cheer, go to pr-christmas-cheer.com.