More than 400 families have already registered to receive assistance this year from the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Christmas Hamper Society.
With two more registration dates coming up, Dec. 4 and 11, hamper society co-chair Lorraine Bates is worried.
The number of families signed up is more than at the same time last year, she said.
“We’ve only been registering for two weeks and it seems to be a lot.”
Bates believes the current economy is a contributing factor to the growing number of clients this year. But she also attributes media coverage and help from local schools for the growing number of people who know that the society is there to help.
“If I know somebody who is embarrassed or ashamed, I want to talk to them personally and put their mind at rest,” Bates said. “And let them know it is confidential and their children won’t know and it’s OK.”
With the a new format implemented this year, she hopes the high volume of people will be manageable.
In previous years, wish lists were submitted to the society and volunteers would go shopping to gather items for hampers.
“This year we’re doing it backwards,” Bates said. “We’re doing the shopping first and [the clients] are actually going in there and doing their own shopping.”
“It’s the feeling of a free shopping spree,” she added.
Bates is hoping to keep sponsorship up and donations coming in.
Last year, expenses for the Christmas Hamper were $75,000, exceeding the volunteer-driven society’s budget by $3,000.
Given that, Bates is even more grateful for donations like the $20,000 raised by the Haney Hotel’s Strip-a-thon at the Caddyshack last year.
The 17th annual Strip-a-thon is this Sunday, noon to 8 p.m.
“People can be bitter all they want, but who’s going to feed these families?” Bates said of the Strip-a-thon.
The hamper society also benefits from the Good Neighbour Program, in which families help others in need by adopting them for Christmas and providing a hamper.
The hamper society currently needs gifts for tweens and teenagers this year. Bates suggests gift cards as the age group is particularly difficult to buy for.
Kristan Fehr, a volunteer at the Christmas Hamper Society, suggests gift cards for the Cineplex Odeon or EB Games in Pitt Meadows or a movie package that can be purchased at Costco.
“In a perfect world, we’d like to be out of business, right?,” Bates said. “That would mean nobody needs us anymore and everybody is able to give their kids Christmas.”
But she has faith that the people of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows will pull through for them.
• Donations of cash, gift cards or toys can be dropped off at the Christmas Hamper office, located at the Albion Fairgrounds on 105th Avenue, north of Lougheed Highway, or at The News office (22328 – 119th Avenue, Maple Ridge).
Toys can be dropped off at the large decorated boxes located in the centre court at Haney Place and ValleyFair malls.
The Christmas Hamper Society will also have a tent set up to accept donations during the Christmas Festival in Memorial Peace Park on Saturday.
Donations will also be accepted at the West Coast Express Santa Train on Dec. 11 and 18.