How to Host Your Own

If you can’t join the fun in Victoria BC, think about hosting your own hamper party. Here are a few HELPFUL HINTS

HOLD TO YOUR OWN HAMPER PARTY (or at least how we do ours)

1. Make arrangements in advance for the hampers to be picked up at your party’s appointed end time. Not all charities will accept perishables.  We give to the Salvation Army here in Victoria; in Toronto we donated to Second Harvest.

2. The first year you have to spend a bit of time explaining the party.  After that, people know what to expect and will show others.

3. Keep a rough tally of what’s coming in.  Sometimes people know exactly what they’ll be bringing; other times, they’ll just say “carrots.”  Don’t push for an exact amount if they don’t offer the information.   You don’t want someone finding out at the store that what they’ve committed to costs way more than their budget—that would defeat the whole spirit of the party.  Everything always works out in the end and your charity will be grateful to receive anything you can provide.

4. Set up the hamper-making area in advance.  Lay out hamper checklists, pencils, scissors, small and medium plastic bags, scotch tape, ribbons to tie up the bags, and bags of bows or other decorations.  I also put out bowls of glitter pipe cleaners cut into thirds to use as decorative twist ties. Download a pdf of the Hamper Contents Checklist here and then photocopy and include in each hamper.

5. Designate specific places for people to deposit various items. You won’t have to worry about this until your party is larger, but we found we had to tape up signage (“Turkeys”, “Cranberry sauce”, “Carrots”, “Recycling here”, etc.) so the hamper packers could find what they needed in the crush.

6. Keep Food Safe. Turkeys should stay in plastic bags at all times.   We also tie a tag on each hamper indicating the weight of its turkey. This helps hamper packers know how much stuffing the hamper needs and lets your charity know how large a family should receive that hamper.

7. Quality control is respectful. We check for broken eggs and sort through produce to make sure we don’t accidentally include anything moldy or bruised.

8.  Keep the checklist in the hamper until all items have been checked off. This is the most important thing to remember!  Incomplete hampers can go outside to stay cold and have missing menu items added, then checked off the list, when they arrive.

8. Recycling is crucial. We found this out the hard way the year we discovered three turkeys buried under a mound of cardboard boxes—an hour after the Salvation Army had gone.  We’re proud to say that even after processing tons of food and filling about 100 “workers” with eggnog, hot soup and munchies, we only have a bag or two of actual garbage left at the end of a party.

9. Runners rule. We always hold back some of our cash donations so we can send out our volunteer “runners” an hour or so before the end of the party to shop for whatever we’re lacking to top up the last hampers.   We also have developed some volunteer runners who love the excitement of calling us near the end of the day, asking what we need, shopping for it and bringing it as their donation.

10.  Always send out a post-party report.  This is really important.   Not everyone will be able to stay until the party ends to get the final hamper count, but they will all want to know what it was.  Also, people deserve to know that their cash contributions were put to good use.  (I’ve never had anyone ask to see them, but I keep all receipts till the next year.)  It’s nice to quote or attach the thank-you letter you receive from the charity that accepts your donation.

Businesses that donate can be thanked in the post-party report, but it’s not a good idea to single out individual donors no matter how generous.  A student’s bag of carrots may represent a proportionally larger contribution than a wealthier party-goer’s six turkeys.

Have a great time and let us know how your party went!

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10 thoughts on “How to Host Your Own

  1. If I can’t do this next week, I would LOVE all the details so I can organize something like this for NEXT YEAR!! Blessings to all who helped make this happen again thsi year!!

    • Now that our Helpful Hints are up you’ll be all ready. There are things you can do to get ready for next Christmas’s party. You can hunt down plastic laundry hampers while they’re on sale in the summer. You can ask friends who travel a lot to save up all those cute little hotel toiletries. They are small enough to tuck into a hamper and look sweet packaged up in cellophane or plastic bags tied with ribbon. Samples of floss or toothpaste from your dentist and perfume samples are also good. Just make sure all toiletries are wrapped so they can’t leak onto your food items.

  2. Hi Joyce, with your help and advice through this blog, there will be a Hamper Party in Placerville, California next Christmas. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. will I have access to this great info in 6 months when I want to pull the group together to start working on the intial planning etc???

  4. What a wonderful way to give back. I can see this becoming a great Christmas tradition. Looking forward to learning more and getting it together for next year. Thank you for sharing!

    • We’re thrilled to see so many people interested in taking on our tradition. My personal fantasy is that these parties spring up everywhere and charitable groups like the Salvation Army go from house to house picking up the hampers they need! Wouldn’t that be a lovely way to celebrate the season?

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