Goldstream Food Bank vice-president Walter Dubeau is happy to help others by volunteering at the food bank’s Christmas hamper program. (Rick Stiebel/News Staff)

Goldstream Food Bank vice-president Walter Dubeau is happy to help others by volunteering at the food bank’s Christmas hamper program. (Rick Stiebel/News Staff)

Goldstream Food Bank Christmas Hamper program in full swing

Gratitude evident as hamper helpers happily give back

The Goldstream Food Bank worker bees buzz around at the best of times, but the hive kicks into overdrive during the demand for Christmas hampers.

Conversations with a couple of clients underline the difference the efforts make for those in need of assistance through the Goldstream Food Bank’s Christmas Hamper Program.

A single mother on the West Shore that registered with the Christmas Hamper Program for the first time last year struggled to find the words to fully express her gratitude.

“I was able to go into the toy room and pick out a gift for my daughter,” said the woman who can’t be identified due to safety concerns. “The hamper program was the only way I was able to make Christmas special for my daughter last year. I was so overwhelmed and grateful I was in tears. I can’t say how much the food bank means to us. Everyone here is absolutely incredible, so friendly, so helpful. I don’t know what we would do without them.”

View Royal resident Terrance Hurl said he relies on the food bank for three-quarters of his food supply.

“I’d be really hurting without these amazing guys,” said Hurl, who lives on a disability pension.

“They even help me out with pet food for my cat, Piglet. I look forward to seeing them every month because they’re such wonderful people. Gayle [Ireland-Goldstream Food Bank president] has gone above and beyond many times to help me out.”

Darrell Colwell, vice-president of operations for the Goldstream Food Bank and Christmas Hamper Program, said the need to adhere to provincial health guidelines during the pandemic and maintain protocols such as social distancing has impacted the way food bank operates.

“We had to come up with a variety of ways to accommodate our clients,” explained Colwell, who has been volunteering for the past 10 years. “We were able to move outside in the nicer weather to keep our staff and clients safe, but winter’s here now. Fortunately, the legion has really stepped up to provide indoor space during the winter months. There’s plenty of space to ensure all of the protocols in place. The clients and staff have been amazing. Everyone is so appreciative of what we do it makes it easy. The numbers go up and down, but there’s always a need in the community.”

READ ALSO: Goldstream Food Bank volunteers use the parking lot to pack hampers by the dozen

About 650 people received Christmas hampers from the Goldstream Food Bank last year.

Vice-president Walter Dubeau has volunteered at the food bank for 12 years. He first got involved with the hamper program about 10 years ago when he launched the annual Turkey Run while serving with CFB Esquimalt’s Fleet Diving Unit.

“Our goal with this year’s Turkey Run is to raise $15,000 so we can provide a turkey on the table for everyone who needs a helping hand,” said Dubeau, who retired five years ago. “The numbers go up and down, but there are always people who need a helping hand. It’s a great feeling to provide for the community, and I’m sure all the volunteers feel the same way.”

Linda Weeden, a volunteer for the past eight years, took a moment between hamper registrations to say she feels fortunate to be able to work with such a great group.

“I love to help people,” she explained. “I’m so lucky, and it’s great to be able to give back. The people who volunteer and the people who come here are all so lovely.”

Darcy Sullivan, who’s been volunteering since March, said he was impressed with how friendly the volunteers and clients are from the start. “It’s an incredible group of people to work with,” he added.

Ireland has a simple explanation for what keeps her involved, and has for 34 years.

“It still amazes me how caring our volunteers are,” Ireland said. “And the gratitude from the people we serve is something really special as well. We want everyone to know if you need help this Christmas, we’re here for you. Give us a call or fill out an application online and we’ll make your Christmas easier and happier.”

Call 250-474-1443 or visit goldstreamfoodbank.org for more information.

rick.stiebel@goldstreamgazette.com