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Christmas hamper programs gearing up in Prince George

It’s that time of year again to start thinking about getting or donating to a Christmas hamper for those in need in Prince George.
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Gloria Hourie, left, and Diane Bacchus, are extraordinary volunteer elders who help with the hampers given out weekly at the Prince George Native Friendship Centre. They will also be lending their helping hands to the Christmas Hamper program that will be offered to community members in need during the holidays.

It’s that time of year again to start thinking about getting or donating to a Christmas hamper for those in need in Prince George.

Donating to the cause is a great way to make sure that all Prince George residents will see a little light at Christmas and know they are supported in their community. Here are the local groups hosting hamper campaigns:

Prince George Council of Seniors

The Prince George Council of Seniors’ Christmas Hamper applications are open until Nov. 30.

“Most of our seniors don't have any socialization and Christmas time is a reminder of being alone as many gather as families for the holidays,” Nicole Currie, Meals on Wheels coordinator, said. “The excitement and joy hamper deliveries bring is also a point of contact with our seniors. The volunteers are able to bring some holiday cheer to those in need and the hamper campaign not only provides a beautiful food hamper for Christmas, but is also a reminder that they are thought of and cared for by those in their community. This is often the only contact they get throughout the holidays.”

Those interested in applying can pick up and drop off their form at the PG Council of Seniors Resource Centre at 721 Victoria Street Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Last year, 250 hampers were provided to seniors in need and donations for this year’s donations will be collected in the form of cash or gift cards and the Council of Seniors is asking for those donations to come in no later than Dec. 5.

There’s a call out for volunteers who are available during the week of Dec. 12 who could help assemble the hampers and then on Dec. 15 and 16 drivers who can deliver the hampers to the seniors are needed. For those interested in volunteering contact ed@pgcos.ca and for more information about applications call 250-564-5888 or drop by the office.

Prince George Salvation Army

The Prince George Salvation Army is making Christmas happen with their annual Christmas hamper program that sees them partner with community-based organizations, groups and churches to ensure individuals and families in Prince George are supplied with the food needed to prepare a festive Christmas meal and put some gifts under the tree.

Last year, more than 420 applications for a Christmas hamper were received. To check eligibility and fill out a form visit https://www.sapg.ca/christmas-hampers-application. Applications from residents of Prince George and Hixon are accepted until Dec. 5.

If you are a Prince George resident who wants to help, then consider signing up to the Adopt-a-Family program (www.sapg.ca/adopt-a-family-registration). The deadline to register is Dec. 10.

Prince George Native Friendship Centre

Gwen Cardinal, Prince George Native Friendship Centre director of health, said COVID-19 has affected most everyone and many people who were managing a tight budget in the past are finding themselves making tough decisions between paying the rent or buying groceries.

“We’ve seen a huge increases around our food security pieces,” Cardinal said.

The Native Friendship Centre offers food hampers all year long and provide about 250 every month and the request for Christmas hampers is in addition to that. There are about 250 Christmas hampers that go out to those in need every year and includes those who are single right up to big, extended families, she added.

The Christmas hamper project’s focus includes fresh foods, too, not just non-perishables.

Here’s the list of what’s on offer and what can be donated to help with the effort: turkey breast, whole chicken or ham, bacon, eggs, margarine, sugar, flour, coffee, tea, rice, jam, peanut butter, tinned milk, corn, pasta and sauce, cranberry sauce, stuffing, apples, mandarin oranges, carrots, potatoes and onions.

The local Friendship Centre food security projects are funded in part by BC Gaming grants for that specific purpose, Cardinal added. The rest is through donations from community members and partners like College Heights Cobbs Bread, which donates to the food program regularly. The Prince George Native Friendship Centre also has partnerships with Save-On Foods, Shoppers Wholesale and Chilako Meats, along with the Salvation Army Food Mesh program, a hub where large amounts of food goes to smaller organizations that can make sure it gets into the hands of who needs it the most in the community.

Many employees of the Friendship Centre donate to the food bank every payday in an effort to sustain the program, Cardinal said.

Volunteers (who are mostly staff members) do much of the heavy lifting as well as a team of elders who are dedicated volunteers that provide hours of effort to the cause each and every week year round.

“It’s the Kokums’ Connection where very active seniors form a volunteer brigade within the organization not only for the food bank but for other projects as well,” Cardinal said. “In that way we have immense richness and wealth coming through their helping hands and that power of friendship with our elders and their ‘give back’ is just so priceless.”  

Applications are available at the Native Friendship Centre until Dec. 9 and donations are welcome during business hours.

“Anything that doesn’t make it into the Christmas hampers will be used in January and February in the regular hampers, as those are really lean times of the year as well,” Emma Faulkner, health department team leader for the Prince George Native Friendship Centre, said.

St. Vincent de Paul Society of Prince George

“We’re always looking for volunteers, especially around Christmas time,” Bernie Goold of St. Vincent de Paul Society, said. “We are in awe of our community because we have never missed a meal during our food services – even during the pandemic this community came through and always supports us in so many ways.”

Donations can be made at the Drop In Centre, 1220 Second Ave., between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday to Friday.

Christmas Hamper applications from St. Vincent de Paul Society is for families with children and applications are done over the phone by calling 250-640-3291 or 250-640-3298 from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on the following days Nov. 24, 25 and 28, 29 and 30. Hamper delivery is on Dec. 18.

“The needs are so much greater now,” Good said. “During this time we’re all shaking our heads over the cost of groceries, especially for those on a fixed income. We couldn’t do it without the generous donations and kindness of the whole community. Thank you all so much."

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