“I knew you were going to ask that,” says Esther Lang with a laugh, when the Journal asks how long the Christmas Hamper program has been operating in the area.
Lang is the chair of the Christmas Hamper committee of the Ashcroft and Area Community Resource Society (CRS), and the hamper coordinator. She says that she’s tracked the program back, and that it’s been at least 35 years since hampers began being offered to residents of Ashcroft, Cache Creek, Clinton, Spences Bridge, Walhachin, the Ashcroft Indian Band, and the Bonaparte Band.
The CRS receives donations of cash and food from area businesses, organizations, and residents, which allows them to offer the hampers to all who need them. This year, the Food Bank in Clinton will be holding a spaghetti dinner fundraiser, with the money to be donated to the hamper program. The hampers come with turkeys and all the trimmings for a holiday dinner (stuffing, cranberry sauce, potatoes, vegetables), as well as a variety of other foodstuffs.
Lang and her hard-working crew of volunteers will spend three days at the Ashcroft Community Hall, filling and sorting the hampers. Last year there were 134 hampers distributed, and Lang says that this year they have already received 131 requests, several days before the Dec. 5 registration deadline. However, she adds that if an emergency hamper is needed, she can be contacted at (250) 453-9085.
The hampers will be distributed on Saturday, Dec. 15, with volunteer drivers delivering the hampers to all who have requested one. Hampers can also be picked up at the Community Hall that morning, but only if the recipient makes that arrangement beforehand.
Donation boxes for the Christmas hampers have been set up at Safety Mart, Interior Savings Credit Union, and the Ashcroft HUB. Lang says that a list of needed items is on each box; these include canned fruit and vegetables, dry pasta and pasta sauces, tuna or tinned meat, soup, oatmeal, juice, packaged desserts (such as pudding or cookies), coffee, tea, cereal, breakfast bars, peanut butter, and baked beans.
Large bags of items such as rice, sugar, and flour are also gratefully accepted. “We have a sanitary area and dedicated volunteers who will package these items in smaller amounts in baggies. We don’t mind bigger packages that can be broken down.” She adds that they cannot accept donations of home-canned items, packages that are damaged, or expired items.
The donation boxes will be collected on Dec. 13, but anyone who would like to donate items after that can take them to the Ashcroft Community Hall until noon on Friday, Dec. 14. On Thursday, Dec. 13 the AVID class from Desert Sands Community School will be travelling through Ashcroft (in the morning) and Cache Creek (in the afternoon) to collect food donations; watch out for the school bus in your neighbourhood.
Lang says that lots of volunteers have stepped forward to help in assembling the hampers, and that she has enough drivers to get the hampers to their destinations.
“It will be a mad dash—but an organized one—on Dec. 15,” she says. “And the drivers get great satisfaction from seeing people, and being thanked.”