Like Santa’s sack, the Christmas hampers put together by Woolwich Community Services never run short.
WCS received a record number of requests for hampers this year, as the economic downturn led to lost jobs and pay cuts.
Usually the agency packs between 120 and 125 hampers each Christmas. This year, they’re filling 143 – the highest number in the history of the hamper program, which goes back at least as far as 1980.
There was no need to fret about shortages though, as donations poured in from the community.
“Donations have been fabulous. The community has certainly provided in every way. We’re really fortunate to have a community that responds the way they do,” said program coordinator Kelly Christie.
Putting it all together was a small army of helpers that descended on Lions Hall this week to wrap gifts, sort food and pack the hampers. Tables were piled high with toys, and thousands of items of food waited to be sorted into boxes.
Among the volunteers was Ted Teahen, who has been wrapping gifts for the hampers for many years. Teahen is also the “bear man;” he collects teddy bears throughout the year and then donates them for the hampers. This year, he donated 126 bears.
“It’s people like that that come back every year and give us a hand,” said WCS executive director Don Harloff.
And the annual packing effort brings in volunteers from all walks of life, from the Midget hockey team that brought items to the hall on Sunday night, to the Girl Guides and Brownies who helped set up, to the fire department that picked up the food donations. Then there are the schools, churches, businesses and individuals that donate and collect food, toys and cash donations.
The agency started taking calls from willing volunteers at the beginning of October, and had plenty of helping hands to lighten the workload.
“This year we had to limit them to one shift so more people could volunteer,” Harloff said.
More than 250 volunteers help with the hamper program in one way or another.
Harloff noted that they aren’t the agency’s regular cadre of volunteers that help with programs and fundraisers throughout the year.
“It’s anyone and everyone,” Christie said.