2009 Hamper Report


We know you’re all perishing to know so—fanfare, please—the final hamper count was 97 hampers!

No, that’s not another of Joyce’s typos—we smoked past last year’s old record of 78 hampers!  Two hampers were vegetarian, one had two canned hams, and the rest starred plump frozen turkeys.  All the hampers were stuffed with fresh, high quality food—much of it local—lovingly and respectfully packaged and festooned with fresh holly.  Three hampers went to individual families in need and at the end of the day, piper Josh MacDonald warmed up with his bagpipes and piped out the hampers as we formed a massive bucket brigade to help the Salvation Army workers load 94 heavily laden hampers into a cavernous moving van.  The stirring sound of the pipes and the awesome sight of thousands of pounds of food being swung from hand to hand down the human chain was utterly thrilling.

For those who couldn’t make this year’s party or who had to leave early, here’s how the day unfolded.  By party time, we knew this year’s party was going to be big.  There were already hundreds of pounds of produce piled up waiting, Peter’s back was aching from hauling it all and, as usual, Joyce was a nervous wreck.  Would the house hold so much food and so many people?  Would chaos ensue?  We decided we’d need to “warehouse” produce outside to free up space in the house.

This turned out to work really well, largely because our next door neighbour James VanDam manfully soldiered on for hours in the pouring rain hauling, organizing and overseeing our “warehousing” operations.  There were many enthusiastic new recruits, but fortunately old hands stepped in to show them the ropes.  People sorted and bagged veggies, then stashed the bagged produce under the dining room table where it was close at hand for hamper makers.  Dividing up into “baggers” and “hamper makers” simplified and sped things up hugely.  The result was “total chaos, and amazingly efficient,” to quote an admiring first-time participant.

Not only were we churning out hampers, we were on a recycling roll!  Ever since the year we found three turkeys in a pile of cartons long after the Salvation Army had come and gone, we’ve tried to keep ahead of our packaging.  This year cartons were flattened, tied up and out the door before they hit the floor.  Recycling Diva Wiluya Graham even volunteered to wash styrofoam bowls and cups and take them away with her for recycling.   Even with processing thousands of pounds of food we ended up with just one bag of garbage for a party of 150 or so people.

We worked, chatted, munched goodies and sipped cider, eggnog and punch.  People caught up with friends.  Newcomers got into the groove.  We sailed past last year’s record and kept on going.  By 4:30 or so it was time to send the runners out with our remaining cash donations for last minute shopping.  We did a tally and realized that if enough of us could throw in $5 we could buy the ingredients we needed to complete six more hampers.   We passed the hat, got our money, and the rest is history.

We were able to go over the top this year thanks to generous donations from Morning Fresh Eggs on Blenkinsop, the Victoria College of Art, Cobs Bakery in Broadmead, the staff at Zambri’s, Rogers Chocolates, and Stage Wine Bar.  Oak Bay Hardware gave us a discount on the hampers and Sea Cider’s thoughtful contribution of a case of cider for the workers helped keep us all merry.

Richard Hum took some fantastic photos of this year’s party and we have Gary McKinstry’s fabulous photos from last year, complete with deep, romantic snow.  With her new Mac, Joyce was able to show these as a slideshow at the party.  She aims to send you all a Powerpoint slideshow by email, but this may take her some more figuring out!  Meanwhile, here are a few photos and Richard has posted some at http://photoshare.shaw.ca/view/283697193-1261543865-43813/0.

We feel truly blessed to know so many generous and caring people, but saddened to report the recent passing of long time hamper party champion, Susan “Head Elf” George Lindsay.  We met many of you through George.  Luckily, our neighbour Dan Doherty stepped in this year to brilliantly organize the initial set-up and flow of food and to greet and train newcomers in George’s place.  We leave you with this lovely quote from Dan that perfectly expresses why we so love sharing this annual event with you.

“I woke up this morning with the thought that if I had only one day to live, participating in [the] hamper factory would be on the list.  To see that many people cooperating, having fun, while making a big difference to 100 families…yup…that is worthy.”

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,

Joyce & Peter