Hamper helpers

Local schools are an important part of the community-wide effort behind the annual food drive for the Cloverdale Christmas Hamper Program.

Members of student council at Clayton Heights Secondary take a break from sorting 6

Thanks to steady support from the community, the Cloverdale Christmas Hamper Program is on target to meet this year’s demand.

“We have 240 applications this year,” program lead Scott Napier said earlier this week, as an army of volunteers worked to sort and assemble food hampers in time for tomorrow’s pick up deadline.

As the number of applicants climbs support from volunteers and donors has also kept pace.

The initiative runs through the combined efforts of a whole host of local individuals and groups.

Local churches, three high schools – Fleetwood Secondary, Clayton Heights and Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary – five elementary schools, plus many businesses and organizations all work together.

The program collects and distributes tens of thousands of dollars in donations of food, gift items, toys and cash as hampers for families and individuals in the Cloverdale area.

Tomorrow recipients come to the warehouse at Pacific Community Church to pick up hampers filled with fresh vegetables and fruit, a turkey or a ham, plus canned goods like tuna, peanut butter and kitchen staples like flour and sugar.

The hampers contain a lot more than just a day’s Christmas supplies – many items last weeks. Some contain toys and gifts for families with children or teenagers. Clothing, food gift certificates and personal care items are included as well.

“The food drive seems to be going really well this year,” he said, adding volunteer inquiries and cash donations were also steady.

Napier says there’s always a tremendous response from local schools, particularly Clayton Heights Secondary School.

This year’s food drive at Clayton Heights wrapped up Tuesday, when members of student council spent the day sorting donations – some 6,500 individual food items in all, plus adding up about $1,700 in cash.

Sixty large collection boxes were placed throughout the school Dec. 1 to 14, and most were full by the end of the school’s 2010 food drive for the Cloverdale Christmas Hamper Program.

“It’s been a whole day at this,” student council representative Nalin Dhillon said, looking around the staff room, where order slowly replaced chaos as items were dumped out, sorted, then re-packed into boxes organized by their contents.

Clayton Heights consistently leads the pack in terms of school food drives for the program, which serves residents between 88 Avenue and 32 Avenue and from 196 Street to 152 Street.

It’s now become a proud tradition to uphold, teacher sponsor Marc England said.

“This is what we do well,” he said.

The student leadership team at Hazelgrove Elementary, one of Cloverdale’s newest schools, was giving daily updates on its food drive for the Cloverdale Christmas Hamper Program.

For the second year in a row, the Hazelgrove’s student leadership team – comprised of Grades 6s and 7s – helped organize the food drive, issuing a challenge to each class to see which could bring in the most donations.

Last year the school raised just under 3,000 items for the program. By Monday’s tally, Hazelgrove students had collected 2,984 food, clothing, household items and toys.

It was an amazing mountain of donations that spilled out into the foyer next to the school’s office.

“We started with 10 boxes and we had to call them after two days and say our boxes are overflowing,” says Jill Payne, a Grade 1 instructor who is the leadership club sponsor along with colleague Keeley Yee.

Their reinforcement boxes quickly filled, too. Payne said one morning, a boy brought in 41 items just to boost his classroom’s standings.

“The thing that the kids really like about it is that it helps people directly in their area,” she said.

– Pick up is between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at Pacific Community Church, 5337 180 Street. Hot dogs and refreshments will be available. Recipients are reminded to bring photo ID and proof of address.

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