In 1972 – the first year the Knights of Columbus ran the Campbell River Community Christmas Hamper Fund – they delivered 52 hampers to those in need over the holidays. That number plateaued a few times over the years – first at between 200 and 300 hampers and then again between 600 and 800.
In recent years, however, that number has begun to rise again, and last year saw the Knights and their army of community partners and volunteers deliver a record 1,190 hampers.
“Unfortunately, the need has been growing,” says Hamper Fund chair Jim Linton. “It would be nice to get that down a little because people are getting back to work or whatever,” he continues, but even if it continues to rise, he says they’ll be ready to handle the demand, thanks to the generosity of the community itself.
“Campbell River is one of the best towns I’ve ever lived in,” Linton says. “The way they give is unbeatable. I’ve never seen, in other cities, the kind of generosity that people here have. They just give and give and give.”
Mayor Andy Adams agrees.
“It’s become a culture here in Campbell River,” Adams says. “It’s a culture of looking after our community and taking care of each other, and it’s organizations like the Knights, or it’s the Eagles, or it’s the Legion – and then you’ve got the service organizations and the business community and corporations – everyone comes together to help.”
Which is a good thing, because the Knights need that help and they are looking for people to sign up to do so.
“We need a lot of people to do the ‘shopping,’” Linton says, which is where volunteers circulate through the warehouse and put a designated number of each item into a shopping cart before bringing it over to the boxing station to be made into a hamper before it goes out the door and into a truck.
And they need those, as well.
“If you’ve got a truck, a driver and a swamper, that would be really great, because we don’t really have anybody to spare, and we’ve got a sign-up book for trucks and drivers at the desk out there,” he says, pointing back up towards the front of the warehouse at #330-1100 Homewood Road (in the plaza behind Perks Donuts).
The depot opened for donations for a few hours today (Nov. 30) until 2 p.m. and will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday to Saturday starting tomorrow until Dec. 15. On Dec. 16 they start making hampers for the outlying areas, and on the morning of Dec. 17, the hampers start to fly out the back door.
“And if we have lots of trucks and drivers, we can get rid of those hampers and get them out to people really fast,” says John Gernon. “Last year we sent a hamper out the door every 26 seconds.”
People or families who would like to sign up to receive a hamper have until Dec. 6 and can do so by going to the Ministry of Employment and Income Assistance office at 833A 14th Avenue.
And they don’t just deliver hampers within Campbell River. They deliver as far south as Oyster River, as far west as Gold River, they bring some up to Tahsis and Sayward as well as across the water to Quadra and Cortes Islands.
Anyone who would like to make a donation of non-perishable food or new toys for children who might not otherwise get any this year, should simply bring it by the depot, Linton says.
“People can just come up to the front door, come on in and put whatever they’re donating on the table, and we’ll organize it from there,” Linton says. “If it’s a money donation, they can come over to the desk and we’ll write them out a temporary receipt and then in January we will either mail or email them a proper income tax receipt.”
After all, Linton says, it can feel really good to help out.
“A lot of people have come back over the years – I can’t even count how many – and they come back over and over to help and talk about how rewarding it is to them to know that they’re helping someone else.”