Despite the challenges presented by provincial health restrictions, the Creston Ministerial Association was able to deliver its annual Christmas hampers program in a safe and socially-distanced manner on Dec. 16.
Over $79,000 was raised for this year’s edition of the hamper program, with 320 individuals and families in the community receiving a hamper package.
Hermen Koehoorn, the president of the Ministerial Association and a pastor at New Life Church, said that this year’s hamper handout went better than anticipated.
“With us having to reinvent the wheel in essence and the system, I couldn’t have asked for a better and smoother way of it running than it actually did,” said Koehoorn. “There’s lots of people who spent hours strategizing, thinking and drawing pictures on how we could make this work. A lot of great people with great hearts and great minds were able to put this together and make it successful.”
Traditionally, the hamper hand-out was a two-day event that would see hundreds of volunteers gather at the rec centre to assemble hamper boxes, which would be filled with food and other goods. The next day, registered families, couples or individuals would swing by to pick up their boxes.
But due to the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing public health orders, the Ministerial was forced to get creative.
This year’s hand-out system followed a circuit that didn’t require people to get out of their cars. It started at the rec centre parking lot, where pre-registered recipients signed in and received a ticket with a number on it, indicating what their hamper package would look like.
Recipients would then drive down to the parking lot of the Holy Cross Catholic Church, where they were met by volunteers who took their tickets and prepared hamper packages based on pre-notified needs outlined by the recipient.
Hamper packages came in the form of pre-packaged boxes filled with canned goods, cereal, rice and other non-perishable products. A bag of apples courtesy of Shukin Orchards Ltd. was also included, as well as a bag of potatoes from the Wloka Farms Fruit Stand.
Envelopes containing gift cards to either Save-on-Foods or Pealow’s were also part of the packages, as well as face-masks, Bad Duck chocolate-caramel bars, chocolate bars donated by Nelson-Creston MLA Brittny Anderson and a season’s greetings message.
Those who registered with children had Bargain! Shop gift cards added to their envelopes, with the purpose of buying toys for the youth.
“Logistically, to be able to pull it off the way we did in a safe way that was honouring the restrictions, of the limitations and protocols out there, it was incredible,” said Koehoorn.
A total of 80 residents volunteered their services and efforts that day, with additional roles including the process of tallying the number of registered hampers, preparing and serving lunch for other volunteers and delivering hampers to registered agencies.
Agency deliveries required volunteers to drop off hamper packages to 10 registered agencies in town, which included the Creston Mental Health and Substance Use, Lower Kootenay Band and Kootenay Employment Services. Once dropped off, agencies distributed the hamper packages to their registered clients or patients.
“It never ceases to blow me away how awesome of a community we live in and how big the heart is of this community to band together,” said Koehoorn.
He said that one of the big takeaways from this year’s experience was seeing what the community is capable of accomplishing as a collective.
“I hope that those who were receiving hampers this year feel blessed knowing that their community cares for them, that their community is willing to spend lots of hours and finance to ensure that they have an amazing Christmas filled with hope, cheer and joy,” he said. “My hope and prayer would be that they actually can see the heart of our community that is for them. I hope they’re encouraged by that.”
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