More than 100 area families will enjoy a little brighter Christmas this year, thanks to the efforts of School District 69 (Qualicum) and a host of sponsor partners and volunteers.
Groups of students from Ballenas Secondary School lent a hand Friday in packaging 110 holiday hampers for needy families in the third annual All They Want for Christmas campaign.
Hampers were distributed to area families beginning Saturday morning, said Rollie Koop, SD69 superintendent of schools.
“The initiative has actually been going on for about 20 years,” said Koop. “A group of business people from Qualicum got together to work with schools in order to provide some support for families at Christmas.
“Three years ago, Virginia Worcester and myself got together and said we could probably do an event that could extend this, and that’s what we’ve been doing for the last couple of years.”
Funds are raised through an annual All They Want for Christmas dance. Quality Foods, a premier sponsor of the program, donates pallets of food, and the monetary donations supplement the Christmas hampers with hygiene products, toys and pajamas.
Families receiving the hampers are referred by their respective students’s schools, said Koop.
“School staff make contact with the families and make sure they’re willing to receive our support,” he said. “They also navigate sizes for kids and gift preferences. So we provide a uniquely tailored hamper for each family.”
Filling of the hampers took place in a whirlwind day at the Winchelsea Place gymnasium in Parksville on Friday. Food and other items were delivered and arrayed on long tables before being packaged into a series of hampers and bags lined up across the gym floor.
Volunteers from both the school district and the broader community took turns filling the hampers, and a sizable group of Ballenas students pitched in for the project.
“This afternoon we’ll have about 30 students from Ballenas come over and actually fill the hampers,” Koops said Friday while volunteers loaded food and toiletries into the hampers. “This morning we had a crew of 30 kids from Ballenas who broke down the pallets from QF and set up the stations we’re using to fill the hampers.”
Quality Foods assists the program by allowing customers to donate both their Q Points and Q-bird certificates, for holiday turkeys, said Koop. Money raised through the dance then allows the All They Want for Christmas board to “multiply the rescouces,” he added.
“These are families that could use a little bit of support at Christmastime,” he said. “So we’ve taken on the job of filling that void in their lives, if we can.”