As the countdown closes on Christmas, the holiday represents an unaffordable time of year with little cheer for many financially strapped families in Powell River.
Powell River and District Christmas Cheer Committee has worked for more than 60 years to bring some joy to low income families, and the number in need has grown, according to committee president Sandra Carmen.
Carmen said the charity started out in 1948 with a few hampers out of Robert and Augusta Long’s basement and it grew from there. In 1984, it became a non-profit society.
“When I started with the committee 17 years ago, we were giving out between 100 and 120 hampers,” said Carmen. “Last year we gave out 245.” That total included items for 300 local children.
The group of 50 to 60 volunteers put together Christmas hampers for families, couples and individuals living together.
“We don’t do singles because we just don’t have enough money to do that,” said Carmen, adding that Christmas Cheer relies on support from municipal and district grants, businesses and individuals.
According to Carmen, grocery shopping starts in September with the purchase of case lots and by taking advantage of all the sales and specials at local stores.
“We do a comparison between the regular price and what we pay,” said Carmen. “Last year, we were able to save $13,275 over the regular price, so it pays for us to shop early. We have to have a reserve in our funding to be able to pay for these groceries because donations don’t actually start coming in until November and December.”
Each hamper contains food, gift certificates and toys.
“Hampers contain canned goods, cereals and packaged goods; we don’t supply meat or dairy, but we do give a gift card instead,” said Carmen. “For large families it’s $55 and for singles it’s $30. That gives them enough to go out and buy a turkey for Christmas. We give them produce, apples and oranges, bananas, potatoes, carrots and onions. It’s a pretty big hamper.”
According to Carmen, toys are for children up to 17 years old and have a value of about $30 each. In addition to items that are bought, the organization is always in need of new toy donations.
Carmen said people are encouraged to submit applications now for Christmas Cheer. For more information, including how to apply, adopt a family or donate, go to pr-christmas-cheer.com.