Community

Helping hands, unsung heroes

Pictured from left: Nitesh, Walter, Kevin,Tony, Christel and Angelo.  - Jennifer Lang photo
Pictured from left: Nitesh, Walter, Kevin,Tony, Christel and Angelo.
— image credit: Jennifer Lang photo

It’s a big job and somebody’s got to do it.

Each year, the Cloverdale Christmas Hamper Program spreads the spirit of the season to hundreds of needy local families and individuals who would otherwise go without.

It takes a combined effort of many local churches, elementary and secondary schools, businesses and service clubs, plus an army of volunteers to make it happen.

It begins after Halloween, when donation boxes are distributed across Cloverdale. Later, they’re collected as they fill up with donations of non-perishable food items from the community.

The 2011 campaign brought in more than $50,000 in food and cash donations.

Playing a vital role was a team from the Surrey Association for Community Living, who helped deliver and pick up all the boxes from schools and business, and are looking forward to doing it all again this year.

“Dropping them off wasn’t a problem for our guys,” says community support worker Sean Rougeau. “We have a good team and they did a good job. The hardest part is picking up.”

In the spirit of friendly competition, two schools – Clayton Heights Secondary and Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary – decided to see which could collect the most food.

“I believe both of them had over 15,000 items,” said Rougeau. “That was basically, 50 boxes plus. They were absolutely packed to the point that it took three of us just to lift them.” Fortunately, the schools immediately offered up ruby players and other assistance.

This year, they’re asking that schools put donations inside smaller plastic bags with handles, so they can be carried out more easily on collection day.

The hampers are put together at the nerve centre, a large warehouse at Pacific Community Church in Cloverdale, where an assembly line is put into action each December.

Each includes non-perishable food and sundry items, vegetables, a turkey or ham, dairy products as well as toys or gift cards for children and youths, along with a grocery gift card for each family or individual to help carry them through the Christmas season.

Last week, the team from Community Living was taking apart damaged donation boxes, stripping off the wrapping paper and tape, and stacking them in a pile for reassembly, making quick work of the job.

“I think it’s really cool that we do this for the other kids,” said Christel, one of the team members.

Rougeau smiled.

“It’s a tremendous thing to see our individuals – I mean, sometimes, society casts them in a certain light – to see them helping individuals who are less fortunate than themselves, is so heartening,” he said. “To see them being totally contributing members to society in a way I’m sure a lot of people don’t see.”

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