Christmas arrived early for nearly 300 local families last Saturday, when recipients turned out for what’s known as ‘Hamper Day’ in Cloverdale.
“It’s been awesome. Everything just went beautiful,” said Kevin Lunder of the Cloverdale Christmas Hamper Program Monday. “We unloaded 1,000 boxes of food.”
While the 2013 tally isn’t yet in, he estimates close to 300 families have been helped, up 20 per cent from last year due to rising demand, including from seniors.
“People were so thankful,” on hamper day, Lunder said. “It went so smooth. There were lots of tears. And so many volunteers showed up to help them load the cars.”
The hampers contain a combination of fresh fruits and vegetables, plus non-perishable food items. Recipients receive gift cards from Price Smart to buy turkeys.
Children and teens are welcome to select a gift or two from the toy room, which is filled with brand new, unwrapped presents arranged by recipient age group.
[Kevin Lunder, left, with hampers ready for pick up from Pacific Community Church. Jennifer Lang photo]
Cloverdale Elementary schools are the largest contributors of toy donations, said Lunder, who acts program lead along with wife Trish.
Dedicated volunteers like Marie Kovacs and Sandy Doyle were part of the army of volunteers assembling hampers last week. On Dec. 12, they were nearing the end of their final shift, sorting donations and putting together hampers to meet Saturday’s deadline.
“It’s fun,” said Doyle, insisting she prefers working at the warehouse, helping others, to shopping in crowded malls.
Kovacs, meanwhile, had been there four days in a row, and figured she hasn’t missed a year since the program began.
The Cloverdale Christmas Hamper Program is run by volunteers, and relies on support from businesses, individuals, churches and schools in the Cloverdale area. Even Surrey’s first responders got involved, helping collect 500 pounds of food and $900 in cash during Hillcrest Village Shopping Centre’s Cloverdale Community Cares event. The Cloverdale Legion also donated $2,000.
In the spirit of giving, Clayton Heights and Lord Tweedsmuir secondary schools formalized a good-natured rivalry for donations and declared a contest to see which school could collect the most non-perishable food items.
Clayton Heights has historically led the pack, but Lord Tweedsmuir student council co-president John Wu thought the Panthers had a decent chance overtaking the Night Riders this year.
Despite valiant efforts by Tweedsmuir, the proud record of Clayton Heights remains intact. The final count was Clayton Heights at 9,308 items, and Tweedsmuir with 4,857.
“Unfortunately, my school lost,” said Wu. “But, as a community we collected nearly 15,000 items, which I’ll say is definitely a win for both schools.”
Tweedsmuir doubled the amount of donations it collected last year for the program, “a pretty good step up!” Wu noted.