Christmas Hamper Party Report – January 2012

Happy New Year, Hamper Party Heroes!

2011 was undoubtably our most successful hamper party ever.  Not only did we set a new record—158 hampers—but our concept rippled beyond Victoria, generating parties in other cities.  Here’s your blow-by-blow account of how we carried off this awesome feat.

Hamper Party Prep

Well in advance of party day, dedicated hamper partiers had sprung into action: saving up a year’s worth of Thrifty’s points to buy extra turkeys, researching a fantastic price for laundry hampers, soliciting donations from our generous donor businesses, and collecting contributions at other Christmas parties.  Joyce created a Facebook Event and, as a result, new donors joined us for the first time.

Christmas Hamper Parties in the Media

We made an even bigger splash in the mainstream media.  First, the Globe & Mail agreed to publish Joyce’s essay on our party in its Facts and Opinions column, including a link to our website.  The problem?  We didn’t have one.  Mandy Leith of Media Rising donated her time & expertise to build our awesome blog and overnight the party became a mini media star.

People loved our story and wanted to share it. The Salvation Army’s Special Projects Officer had called in November to ask if they could use our party as the kick off for their annual hamper drive and, of course, we’d said yes. Then the Ontario host of CBC’s Fresh Air mentioned the Globe & Mail essay and our new blog began getting queries for information.  Donations started coming in, proving our Paypal “Donate Now” button really worked, and on party day CHEK TV showed up to film a one-minute spot. You can view it here.

Hamper Parties Everywhere!

Perhaps most exciting of all, we heard from people in other cities who wanted to host their own parties.  Someone in Placerville, California, wrote that she’d be hosting one.  In Grimsby, Ontario, and Nanaimo, aspiring party hosts ran into problems finding charities willing to take perishable food on such short notice, but in other cities our tradition took off.  The San Diego hamper party, run by Joyce’s sister and brother-in-law and now in its third year, put together an impressive 50 hampers, breaking their previous record. Grimsby promised to find a charity to work with next Christmas.  And just a few days ago, we received the following email from Peter Lane in Mississauga

Joyce and Peter:

Wanted to let you know that the Globe and Mail essay also spawned a hamper drive here in Mississauga organized by my wife Ingrid.  Thank you for sharing your idea.

Ingrid sent an e-mail to a limited circle of friends just to test the waters and received a totally unanticipated response.  We ended up with sufficient food for 14 hampers plus an additional 10 overflow bags.  Each hamper contained about 70 lbs of food.  The Salvation Army took care of the distribution.  I will forward their thank you note separately.  A couple of pictures below.

We will definitely be doing this again next year and based on the response and comments from people who were not a part of the current year effort, should be able to easily double the number of participants.  The Salvation Army indicated they had a need for about 1,500 homes in Mississauga.  

I hope the two of you feel justifiably proud of the giving that your initiative has sparked!

Isn’t that exciting?

The Victoria Hamper Party Triumph

Now back to our triumph here at home.  Armed with record pre-party cash contributions (which were a godsend as this year’s laundry hampers alone cost $456), we went bulk shopping for several menu items, then worried that we might have blown too much of our money buying staple items when we apparently only had 50 turkeys promised.  Next day a Christmas card containing $200 magically appeared on the front porch and more money soon followed.  Ultimately, we are thrilled to report that by the end of party day we collected a few dollars short of $2000!

Gluten Free Hampers, too!

With a record number of people involved and hundreds of pounds more donations to process we decided we needed to expand operations to the ground floor of the house.  By commandeering the downstairs solely for produce, we were able to accommodate one of this year’s fantastic innovations: providing a totally gluten-free kitchen for Sandra Fraser and members of the Victoria chapter of the Canadian Celiac Association to contribute and create 21 completely gluten free hampers safe from any cross-contamination.

This dedicated group not only amassed all the produce, turkeys and other items for their hampers, they also solicited so many donations of gluten free mixes, stuffing, cookies and crackers that they were able to both fill their 21 hampers and contribute two enormous additional cases of gluten free treats to the Salvation Army.  (And we all know how expensive GF items are.)  Kudos to Sandra, Anne Wraggett, Elaine and Dave Whitehead, Ellen Bayens, Bernice Carter and donors Glutino, Kinnikinnick, Corn Thins, Rizopia and The Joint.  We know from the Salvation Army that ordinarily celiac clients “have to put back so much that they don’t end up with much in their hampers.”

Hampers hampers everywhere

By the time Josh MacDonald piped us out at the end of the day, what we had accomplished together was awe-inspiring. A double row of hampers stretched down the stairs all the way to the street, hampers covered every inch of the front yard on both sides of the walkway, and 21 specially marked gluten-free hampers lined the driveway.  Six hampers went to individual families in need and the rest went to a delighted and very grateful Salvation Army.  (Who, this year, came prepared with two trucks.)  I’ve attached the lovely thank you letter we received from Divisional Commander Major Larry Martin.

Baby Ambria amongst the hampers

Baby Ambria amongst the hampers

Huge thanks to our sponsors!

We couldn’t have done it without the amazing generosity of this year’s sponsors.  They don’t ask us to acknowledge them in any way—to quote Steve Parkhill of Rogers Chocolates, “We don’t always donate for recognition; we do it because it’s the right thing to do”—but we still want to recognize them.   Without their help we could never feed so many people such beautiful, high-quality fresh food.  Thank you so much to:

Victoria College of Art

Belfry Theatre (25 pairs of theatre tickets)

Morning Fresh Eggs on Blenkinsop (our sponsor for 11 years)

Media Rising

Rogers Chocolates

April Robins Design

Demitasse Coffee

Koksilah Farm in Cowichan

Oak Bay Starbucks

Blair Market

Cobbs Bakery on Millstream

Thrifty’s Foods in Fairfield

Happy New Year to you all and don’t forget to check the blog in a week or so for Gary McKinstry’s photos plus photos and reports from the spin-off Christmas Hamper Parties you’ve spawned across North America.

All the best for a wonderful year,

Joyce & Peter