They’re busy at the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Christmas Hamper Society in the office at the Albion Fairgrounds.
You can tell that by the background noise when you’re talking to chief organizer Lorraine Bates.
It’s the first of December and volunteers are busy taking in mountains of donated goods and gifts and putting them into hampers that will fit a particular person of family perfectly.
“Right now, we’re at 220,” said Bates, referring to the number of people registered for a Christmas hamper this year.
Last year, a total of 546 hampers were given out, so this year looks to be on track with that.
The society operates throughout November and December and collects toys, new and used, and provides a traditional turkey dinner for disadvantaged families. Every child up to 18 receives a sack full of toys valued at $100.
But there’s often one particular segment of the population that’s difficult to collect for and, thus, more difficult to provide for. For some reason, it’s tough to get gifts for kids in the 13 and over age group.
So where better than to find some sympathetic peers than in schools with kids of the same age?
Bates said schools around Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows are busy with a variety of ways of raising money and helping out.
Yennadon elementary held a “Knock Your Socks Off” event. That resulted in kids bringing in 200 new pairs of socks, 66 hats and 70 pairs of gloves, all of which will be used to stock the gift hampers.
The hamper society has been operating since 1963, with co-chairs Bates and Tom Cameron running the show since 1997. Cameron is currently fighting an illness, but keeps toiling away at the hamper office regardless.
“He’s where he wants to be,” said Bates.
It’s still not too late to get a hamper if you or someone you know is in need. Future sign up dates are at the Albion fairgrounds, Dec. 7, 11 and 14, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
And as of Dec. 1, the Christmas hamper office will be open seven days a week until Dec. 20.
Documents needed to qualify for a hamper include pay stubs, B.C. Care cards for yourself and your family, proof of age for any child 16 years and older, proof of residency in Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows and photo ID.
The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Christmas Hamper Society is a registered non-profit and a member of the Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau.
Families are also treated to two days of free shopping at Rudolph’s Recycle Shoppe and a free shopping spree for the children to choose gifts for their parents and caregivers at the Kids Only Gift Shoppe.
Donations can be dropped off at the Christmas Hamper Society office. There will also be drop boxes for new toys at Haney Place Mall and Valley Fair Mall starting Dec. 1.
Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows firefighters will be collecting toys on Dec. 10 for their Firefighters for Families campaign at all the large food outlets in both communities.
Also the West Coast Express Santa Trains take place Dec. 10 and 17 where cash and new unwrapped toys will be collected in exchange for a free return trip to Vancouver.
Cash and cheque donations can also be made to Otter Co-op in Pitt Meadows at 12343 Harris Rd. and at the Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows News at 22611 Dewdney Trunk Rd.