Nadine Cunningham and her five-year-old son Ryker Voss help to sort hampers at the Smithers Community Services Association Christmas food hamper depot last year. (Marisca Bakker photo)

Nadine Cunningham and her five-year-old son Ryker Voss help to sort hampers at the Smithers Community Services Association Christmas food hamper depot last year. (Marisca Bakker photo)

Christmas hamper program ramps up

Organizers still ironing out details, but the 30-year old tradtion will continue

Preparations for the upcoming Smithers Community Services Association Christmas Hamper Program have begun, but details are still being worked out.

The program has been running for more than 30 years and provides food, the ingredients for a Christmas dinner, toys and books. Each year, around 300 hampers go out, benefiting roughly 1,000 people from Witset to Telkwa. Around 30 per cent of those people are children.

Program coordinator Anne Harfenist said they aren’t sure what this year will look like because of the ongoing health pandemic, but organizers are pushing forward to try and bring some Christmas cheer to those who might not otherwise have any without a hamper.

She is expecting more applications for hampers and less donations to come in.

However, most events that raise money and donations leading up to the Christmas hampers being put together have been cancelled.

“I’m an optimist,” she said, hoping people will still give. “Some people are hurting and they have to take care of themselves. I don’t know if the schools will collect food like they normally do, we don’t know. We will get food and toys to people in need. It might not be as great as previous years but maybe the community will step up and it’ll be phenomenal.”

She added there is still an unknown on how the program will go.

“The Harley owners groups cancelled their toy run, which normally brings in a lot of toys but they decided to give money instead and then Sam Henderson at Eye Candy held a barbecue to bring in toys to help make up for it.

“That is incredibly nice and helps us a lot. So we just don’t know what the balance will be between lost donations and people stepping up.”

COVID safety protocols also mean they will have to use less volunteers and school groups won’t be coming into the depot to help organize.

Organizers are still finalizing the details of the location for the depot, but it normally opens December 1. Hampers this year will go out the weekend before Christmas.

The application process has also changed slightly. Forms can be faxed in and organizers are developing a form for people to text them in. There will also be some way of applying in person but those details are also still being worked out.

Applications will be accepted starting Nov. 16. More information can be found at: www.scsa.ca/programs/other-services/christmas-hampers​