Merry Christmas! This year’s truly astounding Christmas Hamper Making Party caught everyone by surprise, sweeping over us all like a tsunami of communal energy, generosity, goodwill—and brussels spouts. We are thrilled to report to those of you who couldn’t make this year’s party, or had to leave early, that collectively we were able to donate—drum roll, please—76 Christmas hampers to needy families. This is far and away ahead of last year’s record of 50 hampers. Peter and I really felt we were part of something truly extraordinary…and we were!
Where did all the goodies go? Well, three hampers went to the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder Community Circle’s “Moms Mentoring Moms,” which provides support services to moms trying to raise families where addiction has been a problem. The other 73 hampers went to the Salvation Army, along with cases of extra carrots, brussels sprouts and potatoes. In fact, it took seven burly Salvation Army volunteers and two big trucks to collect it all!
There were many new faces at this year’s party, including one angel who made and sold knitted handbags to raise $300 with which she purchased 18 turkeys for us. We don’t know exactly how many people ultimately joined in—who had time to count?—but there were never fewer than 35 of us, and usually many more. We know someone counted 70 at one point, and new replacements arrived bearing turkeys right up until the end of the day.
With so much more food coming in than we’ve ever had before, newcomers got a crash course in how to fill the hampers before being thrown into the fray. The dining room floor was an obstacle course of sacks of spuds, onions, and stray brussels sprouts. Luckily, we had lots of hardworking children this year to help out with everything from making name-tags, to tying up bundles of fresh rosemary and holly, to keeping the cookie plates filled and the plastic bags gathered up for recycling.
After the first feverish couple of hours, we realized we were on a roll and might even make 60 hampers, so we sent a runner out with some of our donated cash to buy more plastic hampers. The front porch was still paved in frozen turkeys when people started dropping by after work laden with goodies. Including more turkeys. Virtually everyone, young and old, was working full tilt and the excitement was palpable: could we actually hit…70…hampers?
Joyce started worrying (aloud, as usual) that with so many turkeys, we’d really have to scramble to find the rest of the hamper ingredients. A few people handed her a ten or a twenty. An angel stepped forward to say he’d add $100 to this new windfall and go with another runner to Costco for more supplies. He returned with goodies that disappeared into hampers almost immediately, so we ultimately sent him on a second run with our last remaining cash.
By now it was 7 pm and the Salvation Army trucks had arrived. While the Sally Ann volunteers had cookies and mulled apple cider, the troups feverishly gift wrapped cardboard boxes to use as hampers (we’d long since run out of those) and kept on packin’. As always, once we began clearing up the container debris (boxes, bags, crates, etc.) we found goodies that had been overlooked—including a few more turkeys! Out of time and with limited fixings, we put together still more last minute hampers, making up for items they lacked by giving them extras on what we did have. They weren’t as fully laden as our usuals and they were in cardboard boxes with just fresh holly and rosemary to decorate them, but we know they’ll be enjoyed on Christmas day just the same. It was around 8 or 8:30 pm before the overstuffed Salvation Army trucks finally pulled away to deliver the hampers to the waiting families.
The Salvation Army drivers told us stopping for cookies and mulled punch when they pick up our hampers is “an annual tradition” for them and that our hampers are by far the most bountiful, most beautiful, and most prized hampers they receive. This year our local Salvation Army is struggling to provide Christmas hampers to some 1300 needy families. This still doesn’t meet the huge demand and every year families requesting hampers are turned away. Our annual party has become a significant donor, providing almost 6% of all their hampers, many of which come from organizations much larger than our rag tag army of good-hearted friends and neighbours.
Thank you all for sharing this experience with us. Whether you brought a bag of carrots or multiple turkeys, we are very, very grateful to you. We also want to thank the businesses that so generously contributed donations this year: the lovely folks at Galey’s Farm, Feys & Hobbs, Ottavio’s, Zambri’s, Stage Wine Bar & Paprika, Demitasse, Ambrosio, and staff of the Oak Bay TD Bank
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a fantastic 2008.
Joyce & Peter