The 2011 Sooke Christmas Bureau kicked off Nov. 25. From left: Barry Gifford

Christmas Bureau kick off

Charitable organization brings help to the less fortunate in Sooke and area

What started as a single can of soup collected by the fire department 15 Christmases ago has turned into literally more foodstuffs that they can fit into a giant dump truck.

As part of the Sooke Christmas Bureau campaign, a committee that forms prior to every Christmas to help local families in need, the Sooke Fire Department is running its annual holiday initiative to collect food and cash donations.

“It was hugely successful last year. We filled two big construction trailers with food,” said Fire Chief Steve Sorensen.

He said the first year firefighters didn’t even have the idea of soliciting donations, they were just out giving away candy canes when someone handed over some soup. The chief thought “hey, this is a good idea.”

The first two weekends in December from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. the department, along with RCMP and ambulance staff, will be outside the entrance to both Village Food Markets and Western Foods collecting non-perishable food items — things like canned fish and meats, peanut butter, pasta and cereal are in high demand (no expired items please). In the third weekend on Dec. 16, 17 and 18 at the same times there will be an open house at the fire hall. People can drive inside, hand their donations to volunteers, and drive out the back without leaving their cars.

Finally, on Dec. 17 firefighters will go on their Santa Run — fire trucks will be decorated and driven around town once again handing out Christmas candy and collecting one final round of food. Special paper bags with route information will be distributed with the Dec. 14 issue of the Sooke News Mirror.

“Otter Point and East Sooke fire do it in their areas (as well),” said Sorensen.

After that, all the food is taken to be sorted at the community hall the following day. It is then combined with other items like turkeys and fresh vegetables to complete the ingredients for a good dinner, put into hampers and then are ready for pick up by registered families on Dec. 21, said Barry Gifford, president of the Christmas Bureau. Last year, 410 hampers were given out.

The bureau will also have their own food and cash donation bins scattered around town at the T-Sou-ke Nation craft sale on Dec. 3. They will be at the Chamber of Commerce’s Santa Parade on Dec. 4, and people can also mail cheques to: Sooke Christmas Bureau, P.O. Box 983, Sooke, B.C. V9Z 1H9.

“Funds go towards paying for what’s required for the hampers (in addition to non-perishables),” said Gifford. Any leftover food will be redistributed to the food bank in the new year.

The goal in 2011 is to raise $25,000. The cost to put together all the hampers costs about $18,000, he said. Families can register to be eligible to receive a hamper until Dec. 9 at noon. Application forms are available at the Sooke Youth, Child and Family Centre (CASA — 2145 Townsend Rd.), the Sooke Food Bank Society (Thursdays at the community hall from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. — 2037 Shields Rd.), Work Link (Sooke Works — 6625 Sooke Rd.)and the Sooke Crisis and Referral Centre (2043 Church Rd.)

The Christmas Bureau is looking for volunteers on Dec. 19, 20 and 21 to sort, build and distribute hampers at the community hall. To apply, or for more information, call 250-642-1534 and leave your name and phone number.