Faced with a very different donation landscape this year, the Community Resource Society’s (CRS) Christmas Hamper Committee has come up with a novel idea to ensure they are once again able to provide hampers to individuals and families throughout the area: a tradition that is now more than 20 years old.
A large part of what goes into the hampers is food items donated by community members at various locations. This year, because of concerns around COVID-19, food donations are potentially problematic, particularly large bags of items such as oatmeal, rice, and flour, which are usually broken down by volunteers into smaller portions. In order to ensure that the hampers are still full, the CRS will be working with local businesses to collect cash donations between Nov. 12 and Dec. 15, in order to purchase the items that they need.
The idea is that several local businesses will allow customers to add a donation (in an amount of their choosing) to their bill, to be included in the final total. Chris Webster, CRS treasurer, says that the idea came out of a conversation between Ashcroft Safety Mart manager Victor Paulos and Christmas Hamper Committee chair Esther Lang.
“The idea was to have a few posters around town mentioning the event and a little sign by the cashiers. We want it to be subtle, so that the cashiers aren’t having to promote it. We don’t want them to solicit for the money — that’s not their job — but if we have signs up then the customer can initiate the donation, so that if they want to add a couple of dollars to their bill they can do that.”
Lang says that the timing for the fundraiser worked out with what other groups were doing, “Victor said that the [Desert Sands coupon book] fundraiser would be over by Nov. 12, and that the poppy sales would also be over. He said that other groups had done this sort of fundraiser, and it will help make up for the food donations we won’t be asking for.”
Safety Mart, Ashcroft Home Hardware, NGN Sales and Service, Ashcroft IDA Pharmacy, and Junctions Coffee Shop in Cache Creek are businesses where customers can have a donation added to the bill once the fundraiser starts on Nov. 12. The businesses will then be able to send the donations to CRS via e-transfer.
Webster says that other businesses in both communities that cannot add donations to the bill — such as the two liquor stores — will have donation boxes available. She adds that cash donations are very useful for the society, as they can be used to purchase goods, and volunteers do not have to worry about the cleaning and sorting that goes with physical donations.
“We won’t be collecting from residences,” says Lang. “We’ll just have a buggy at Safety Mart, so people can purchase food there and put it in the buggy. Those items will be put aside for seven days for safety. We want to fall in with provincial guidelines, and we’ve gone through all the WorkSafe BC guidelines and have had our COVID-19 plan approved by the Village of Ashcroft.”
Lang adds that since they won’t be able to break down larger bags of sugar, flour, oatmeal, and more as they usually do, they’ll be incurring more expenses by buying smaller and individually wrapped items. “The only things we’ll repackage are carrots, potatoes, onions, and apples, and most people wash those anyway.”
Webster says that they will be trying to purchase as many items as possible locally. “Victor has been great at trying to source things for us. It’s more cost effective to buy in bulk and bag things, but this will be easier for the volunteers. And our focus is to keep everybody safe.”
Anyone who would like to apply for a hamper can do so at a variety of locations in Ashcroft, Cache Creek, Clinton, Spences Bridge, and at the Bonaparte Band beginning on Nov. 16 (the cut off for applications is Nov. 27). Last year the CRS distributed 182 hampers to residents in and around Ashcroft, Cache Creek, Clinton, Spences Bridge, and Walhachin.
“We ask that people wear masks when they come to make an application, and that they please don’t bring children,” says Lang. Applicants also need to bring photo ID and proof of residency. “Nothing has really changed [about applications] except that we’ve usually had a longer period in Ashcroft. It’s only three days this year.”
For a full list of locations, dates, and times for applications, please see the advertisement in this week’s issue of the Journal. You can also check the posters around the community or on various Facebook pages, or call Esther Lang at (250) 453-9085.
Lang says that they are not looking for new volunteers to help put together the hampers, which will be delivered on Dec. 19.
“We’ve asked for couples who have volunteered before, and who are in the same bubble. We can’t use the Sea Cadets for delivery this year, so we’ve arranged for some volunteers to help us for four days rather than three. It won’t look too much different.”
Webster says that anyone who would like to donate directly to CRS can do so by sending an e-transfer to firstname.lastname@example.org (using the code word “hampers” if necessary), or by sending a cheque to the Community Resource Society at P.O. Box 1137, Ashcroft, B.C. V0K 1A0.
“This fundraiser is something new for here,” she says. “The generosity in this community is wonderful, and it makes all this possible.”