Back around 1980 or so, we at the Creston Valley Advance introduced our first ever Community Christmas Card. We encouraged readers to make a donation to the Creston Ministerial Association Christmas hamper fund. In return, their names would be printed on a page in the newspaper’s pre-Christmas edition.
It wasn’t a hard-sell campaign. We just pointed out that this was a better use of money than to send out cards to local people, ones we tend to see fairly regularly anyway. Over the years, people who moved away often sent back a donation so that their name would show up, a sign that they were thinking of their former neighbours.
In recent years, I have made an effort to point out that the hamper fundraising effort is a bit of a misnomer. Yes, an ever-increasing number of individuals and families are given a food and gift hamper to help make their Christmas a little brighter. But donations in excess of the cash needed for the Christmas hampers are used year-round. They provide funds that local churches use to help others with any number of needs — from emergency dental care to a bus ticket home.
I feel incredibly blessed that I have never needed a handout, but like all of us, I have certainly been the benefit of a hand-up. Whether it has come from a thoughtful neighbour or friend who knew I was going through a bit of a struggle or someone who just wanted to do a random act of kindness, a hand-up is the best indicator of the sort of community we have.
And we do have a wonderful community. In my work, I interact regularly with elected people and others who are involved in community building. It’s almost become a mantra to acknowledge the remarkable generosity the residents of the Creston Valley display, whether it’s in big, public fund-raising efforts or quiet deeds that go unpublicized. We have a lot of neighbours here who make helping as a friend and volunteer a full-time endeavor. And they ask for nothing in return.
I’ve always been grateful and amazed at the generosity I see around me. And I have lots of opportunity to be reminded. A few months ago, I spent some time at Gleaners, gaining insight about the efforts of more than 100 volunteers. Their astonishing efforts have not only made Gleaners a critical player in our valley’s recycling efforts but enable them to fund numerous programs in the community, reducing the time and effort that providers typically have to put into fundraising on their own. If there was ever an example of win-win, it is to be found in the minds, hearts and operations at Gleaners.
It’s heartening to live in a place where people care so much about their neighbours. On Monday morning, as I write this, our editor, Brian Lawrence, has just delivered donations of books and food dropped off by readers. He also presented ministerial association president Tom Greentree with an envelope stuffed with cash and cheques, all donated by our readers and staff. The total? How does $9,200 sound? It sounds absolutely incredible to me, and we have been thrilled at the steady stream of readers who have been coming into our office to drop off their donations in the past couple weeks.
Last year, we were amazed that the total amount we collected for the hamper fund edged up over $5,000. We have no explanation about why this year the amount nearly doubled, other than to say that our readers never fail to surprise us with their caring and their belief in our community.
For our staff, it is very gratifying that we are able to play a part in this amazing effort to help bring joy to others. It affirms our belief that we live among wonderful people who so easily see beyond their own circumstances, reaching out to help whenever it is needed.
Out heartfelt thanks goes out to all those who contributed, whether through our office or other fundraisers, and to those who volunteer year-round to help the lives of our less fortunate neighbours. You are, indeed, what makes ours a very special community.
Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.