Lorraine Bates had mixed emotions as she accepted a cheque for $2,000 this week.
The organizer of the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Christmas Hamper Society received her last donation from an employee of Hammond Cedar who has been giving to the cause for decades.
“They have been doing it since 1997,” said Bates, noting the funds are mostly raised through cashing in pop cans from the employees. “He was sad when he brought it in.”
“He just said ‘This is the last one Lorraine,’ and gave me a hug.”
Interfor closed the mill at the end of October after it operated for more than a century.
Stephen Kolasa was a millwright at the mill, and one of 200 people who worked there who lost his job. There had been an employee who collected pop cans around the mill, for his own ‘beer money.’ Then 22 years ago Kolasa took over when that employee retired, and decided to donate to charity.
He chose the Christmas Hamper, and considers it a great cause.
“They do a really good job of supporting people in the community,” he said. “And they’re all volunteers, so it’s all going to people in need.”
Kolasa also took scrap metal where he could to beef up the donation. This year, he pitched in $800 of his own funds, to make the last cheque a big one.
He estimates the mill’s metals resulted in a combined donation of $30,000 over the years. Bates said it was one of the more regular sources of funding for the society.
With the mill closing, Kolasa was near enough to retirement that he decided “it’s time.”
He said his co-workers who are young and skilled have been able to find new jobs, although some have had to leave the city. Others who are older are having a tougher time finding employment, he said.
“I know some people who are struggling. For people in their 50s it’s not easy,” he said.
“You cannot replace those jobs. It’s the end of an era – everyone thought that place would be there forever.”