With just over three weeks until this year’s Christmas hampers are packed, the Creston Ministerial Association is reminding the community that now is the time to donate.
“We can empathize with those who feel a lot of stress at Christmas,” said association president Tom Greentree, pastor of Erickson Covenant Church. “This is for them to feel the joy of the season. This is an opportunity for us as a community to extend that joy.”
Over 450 hampers are expected — 485 were requested last year — and will be packed with food and much more on Dec. 16, ready for pickup on Dec. 17.
Many local businesses are already collecting nonperishable food items, some have made cash donations and others are collecting cash — Sue’s Clotheslines organized a silent auction, and the Advance adds donors’ names to a Community Greeting Card in the Christmas issue. A collection will also be taken at a 7 p.m. Dec. 16 carol festival at Prince Charles Theatre.
Also included in the hampers are non-food items such as books, through the Creston Valley Public Library and Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy’s Book Under Every Tree campaign, which collects new books at a variety of locations. Children’s toys can also be donated at Pyramid Building Supplies — simply visit the store, pull a tag with an age and gender from the Christmas tree, buy an appropriate gift, and return it unwrapped to Pyramid.
The ministerial association purchases gift cards for items that can’t sit indefinitely in the hamper, such as turkeys, and the program usually costs close to $25,000, so cash donations are vital to its success.
Excess funds are held by the ministerial association, and distributed to those in need of help with medical and dental expenses.
“The monies that come in at Christmas we spend through the whole year,” said Greentree. “We steward them on behalf of the community.”
Packing the hampers takes a lot of work and organization — about 30 people are needed to sort donations when they are dropped off on the Monday morning (donation pickups can be arranged by calling Redeemer Lutheran Church at 250-428-9100), with 100 needed to start packing at 1 p.m. About 40 are needed to assist with pickup from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on the Tuesday afternoon.
Volunteer co-ordinator Shelley Stickel-Miles will be on hand at the Creston and District Community Complex so volunteers can check in with her and be assigned to the area they can best serve.
Anyone who needs a hamper is welcome to receive one, and can easily sign up at local churches and social organizations. In the past, some have taken offence to being signed up for one without their knowledge, so it’s important to be sure the help is wanted.
“They have to know they’re getting a hamper,” said Greentree. “They have to be OK with it, so you need to ask them.”
And while the ministerial association oversees and organizes the hamper program, Greentree stresses that it isn’t strictly a religious venture.
“This isn’t just churches,” he said. “It’s the community of Creston. This is a caring community that wants to help those who find themselves in tough spots.”