It’s been a fixture of the local seasonal landscape for more than 25 years, and the Community Resources Society’s Christmas Hamper program is back in 2023, providing holiday cheer for people and families from Spences Bridge to Clinton.
Longtime organizer Esther Lang says they never know how many hampers they will distribute in a given year.
“We gave out 172 last year, down from 190 in 2021. We expected to do more last year, but it didn’t work out that way.”
She suspects that one reason for that might have been because the committee instituted a firm cut-off date for applications. That applies again this year, with no applications accepted after Nov. 22. Between now and then, however, there are many opportunities for people to apply, either in-person in various communities or by phone. Applications were accepted in Clinton on Nov. 7 and 8. Upcoming in-person application dates are:
- Cache Creek, at The Equality Project’s clubhouse on Stage Road on Nov. 13 and 14 (noon to 2 p.m. each day)
- Ashcroft, at the E. Fry Society office on Bancroft Street on Nov. 14 and 15 (noon to 2 p.m. each day) and Nov. 16 (1 to 3 p.m.)
- Spences Bridge, at the Improvement District building (former school) on Nov. 16 and 17 (1 to 3 p.m. each day)
- Bonaparte, at the Health Centre, on Nov. 17 (noon to 2 p.m.)
Anyone who cannot make it to any of those locations can make an application by phone from Nov. 20–22, from 1 to 3 p.m. only each day. For Ashcroft and Cache Creek call Chris (250-453-9534); for Spences Bridge and Clinton call Vivian (250-457-7081).
Lang says they prefer it if people are able to apply in-person, bringing with them one piece of photo ID and one item showing proof of residency. However, she notes that these items are just so that they can spell names properly and get the right address for delivery.
“We don’t ask for private information, and people aren’t means tested. Someone asked me ‘How do you vet people?’ and I said we don’t. Our responsibility is to provide for people who feel they have a need.”
Due to a lack of storage options, the program is not accepting food donations this year. “Food takes a lot of storage space and sorting,” explains Lang. “It’s easier for us just to purchase food, and we can buy in bulk.”
Funding comes from local businesses and private donations. This year the Community Resources Society sent out nearly 90 funding request letters to businesses and organizations in Clinton, Cache Creek, Ashcroft, and Spences Bridge, and Lang says that basically funds the program. After Nov. 11, Ashcroft Safety Mart will be setting up a system that allows people to add a donation amount of their choosing to their grocery bill, and donation canisters will be set up at the liquor stores in Ashcroft and Cache Creek, at Clinton Home Hardware, and in Spences Bridge: “At least one in each area we support,” says Lang.
She adds that the trolley for food donations at Ashcroft Safety Mart is for the Elizabeth Fry Society food bank, which is completely separate from the Community Resources Society and the Christmas hampers. Any food left in the trolley will continue to go to the food bank.
Each hamper contains more than $100-worth of goods, including almost all the trimmings for a full Christmas dinner. Hampers for three or more people will include a frozen turkey; hampers for single people or couples will contain a gift certificate for Safety Mart.
Assembling all the hampers takes a well-oiled team of people working for three days in advance of distribution day, which this year is on Saturday, Dec. 16.
“We always have enough volunteers, and I have a long list of people still wanting to volunteer,” says Lang. “I’ve gone to a three-day model with 20 people working all three days. It’s a very efficient group.”
On Dec. 16, more volunteers assemble to deliver the hampers. Clinton firefighters make the round trip to Ashcroft to pick up and deliver those hampers, while Mavourneen Varcoe-Ryan and Jim Ryan deliver the hampers to Spences Bridge. The Ashcroft and District Lions Club members do a lot of deliveries in Cache Creek and Ashcroft, and many people in those communities will come to the hall to pick up their hampers, but Lang says more volunteers for deliveries are welcome.
“Vivian Edwards does all the mapping and routes and puts all that together,” she says, adding that anyone who wants to deliver can contact Edwards at (250) 457-7081.
Anyone who would like to donate can mail a cheque (payable to Ashcroft and Area CRS/Christmas Hampers) to P.O. Box 1137, Ashcroft, V0K 1A0. E-transfers can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org with a subject of “Treasurer/Christmas Hampers” and the code word “hampers”.