It’s a hive of activity at the Sooke Food Bank as volunteers prepare for the Christmas season.
Every day, more than 20 volunteers arrive at the food bank to sort food items, pack shelves and otherwise prepare for the push to create Christmas hampers for the community’s least fortunate.
This Christmas, the food bank will be packing more than 900 boxes to make up the 340 hampers going out the door next weekend (the number of boxes in each hamper depends upon the number of people in the family).
The effort has been made easier by the generosity of the community and the hard work of the volunteers who recently took part in two food drive initiatives.
On Dec. 11, more than 50 volunteers at Edward Milne Community Sschool hit the streets to collect 16,893 food items for the food bank. It was the highest number of items ever collected by the Christmas initiative and vice-principal Todd Powell said it was the combined efforts of the community that made it possible.
“We had EMCS students in the leadership program, but we had other students as well plus three local hockey teams and other community volunteers. I want to give them all a massive thank you,” Powell said.
Then on Saturday evening another food drive, this time by the Sooke Fire Rescue Department, added another giant truckload of food to the mix.
“We filled a giant U-Haul unit with food and also collected more than $8,000 in cash donations. It was just a fabulous night and I really want to thank all the firefighters and others who helped make the night possible,” said Chief Kenn Mount.
“We got home at about 11:30 on Saturday night and everyone was pretty much exhausted. But it was worth it.”
It’s important, though, for people to know why all this effort is needed.
“The need is there, and it just keeps rising,” Ben Moleski, the co-chair of Sooke’s Christmas bureau said.
“We have all kinds of different people who need our help but people should realize that many of them are the working poor. These are people who, despite working hard to provide for their families, often have to make a choice between paying their hydro bill or feeding their family. And Christmas is particularly hard.”
He noted that just last week an additional 10 families joined the ranks of the food bank’s clients.
But at the same time the community is rising to address the need, Moleski said.
“Just look at all these people and all the food that’s been donated. It’s amazing.”
After the tons of food collected in the community is sorted, the volunteers will be back on Saturday to pack the hampers.
“We’ll have a sort of conga line set up and, in a few hours, we’ll get the 900 boxes packed,” said Mike Thomas, the other Christmas Bureau co-chair.
“But before then we’ll be buying $24,000 of fresh produce for the hampers. We buy that from our local grocers; folks who give us wonderful deals and are always very supportive.”
And when it’s all done, the volunteers will return to their own homes to enjoy Christmas celebrations, secure in the knowledge that they’ve helped make the holiday a little brighter for the community.