The Kimberley Helping Hands Food Bank has been operating in Kimberley since 1985 and every year, for the past 19 years, they have run the Christmas Food and Toy Hamper Program.
Food Bank Coordinator, Heather Smith has been leading the program for 16 years and she says it has been growing ever since.
The hampers include “everything you would need over Christmas”, says Smith. From a turkey dinner to a little extra: milk, eggs, cheese, crackers, fresh vegetables and fruit. All of the food is purchased by the food bank.
The hampers also include gifts for children aged 0 to 18, which are donated through the Angel Tree Program.
Angel Trees are set up at various locations in Kimberley. Each tree has a tag with the gender and age of a child, for whom you buy an appropriate gift (new and unwrapped) and return it to the tree.
The trees are set up until Thursday, Dec. 8 at the following locations: the Kimberley Dollar Store, Bavarian Home Hardware, RBC and Kootenay Savings, City Hall, Arrow and Axe, Rustic Hutch in Marysville and Walmart in Cranbook.
Smith says the program, and the Food Bank for that matter, could not run without the help of dedicated volunteers.
“Kimberley people are absolutely awesome; the volunteers and the donors, which we have a lot of,” Smith said. “It takes a lot to coordinate the program. We have the Kimberley Independent school, all of our screeners and 14 sets of fillers.”
Screeners are the regular volunteers who run the intake, or inventory at the Food Bank, while the fillers are the volunteers who fill the hampers at Christmas time. The Kimberley Dynamiters also come out to help unload the groceries when they arrive on Dec. 8th.
The program officially starts on Monday, Dec. 11 and the fillers spend Friday and Saturday (December 15 & 16) filling and distributing the hampers.
“It’s a very big job. You have to coordinate everything so that it all goes smoothly,” said Smith, who started organizing the program over a month ago.
Smith also says that all of the food in every hamper is purchased through local grocers: Centex, Mark Creek Market, Overwaitea, Kimberley City Bakery and Kimberley Sausage and Meats.
Last year the Food Bank put together 186 hampers, which Smith says is a fairly average number for a community the size of Kimberley.
The Food Bank’s other two major annual fundraising events are the Duck Race and the Garage Sale. However, a lot of people raise funds or donate groceries all through the year, including emergency and regular hampers.
Smith says that it’s always good to donate money (as opposed to food) because the Food Bank gets a discount on their purchases, which means they can buy larger quantities and they know the items that are best suited to their recipients.
If you wish to make a donation or volunteer for the food bank call Smith at 250.427.5522 or drop by their location at the Anglican Church.