Hundreds of volunteers. Hundreds of donors. Thousands — and thousands and thousands — of dollars. And more than 400 families, couples and individuals whose Christmas is a little brighter because of the annual Creston Ministerial Association hamper drive.
“It’s wonderful, amazing,” said an overwhelmed Pastor Carl Sawler on Tuesday morning.
He was taking a brief break while volunteers buzzed around the Creston and District Community Complex Creston Room, setting up stations to ensure the distribution of hampers packed on Monday went smoothly.
“The donations from businesses and individuals has been absolutely incredible,” he said. “People just give from the bottom of their hearts.”
Sawler said some changes made this year will allow couples and families to choose a turkey or ham or other grocery items with a gift card to be redeemed at a local store. (The gift cards are designed so that they can only be redeemed for grocery items.) Traditionally, hampers have been given out with a turkey included.
“This is so much easier — and Overwaitea has turkeys on sale for 89 cents a pound, so families can get a really big turkey at that price,” he said.
Many of the volunteers have been helping out with hamper packing and delivery for years, but for Marlene Palmer, surprisingly, this is her first experience. The counsellor and care aide, who left the Bountiful community more than a decade ago, recently was recognized for 20 years of work with emergency social services.
“I’ve loved doing this,” she said. “Yesterday was such a riot — everyone has so much fun. And it’s wonderful that people bring their children to help out, too. I’ll be back to help out next year!”
Sawler pointed out that the December fundraising effort isn’t solely for Christmas hampers. The ministerial association provides emergency funds and services throughout the year.
“Recently we had a woman come to Creston to visit her very ill mother,” he said. “The woman had no financial resources and was in desperate need of dental work. There was no other agency to help her, so she was directed to us.”
Sawler said that after her initial inquiry about possible help, he didn’t hear back from her.
“So I phoned her and asked how she was,” he said. “She said she was too embarrassed to ask for help because the dental work was so expensive.”
She got the help she needed.
While the Christmas hamper project has distributed more than 400 boxes of food and gifts in recent years, Sawler said the recipients change significantly from year to year.
“It’s not just the same people coming back every year,” he said. “Some people pass away and others move on to other communities. But the need doesn’t decrease.”
With the outpouring of support from individuals, organizations and businesses, he said the job of helping those who are less fortunate is made easier.
“This is a reminder of what an incredibly generous community the Creston Valley is,” he said. “We are all very fortunate to live here.”