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Need just keeps getting bigger

Dave Bennett volunteers for the Christmas Bureau. - Sharron Ho
Dave Bennett volunteers for the Christmas Bureau.
— image credit: Sharron Ho

The Sooke Christmas Bureau currently has a fundraising goal of $25,000 to supply food to over 450 families.

According to Dave Bennett, Sooke Christmas Bureau spokesperson, about $11,000 has been raised as of Dec. 14.

The Christmas Bureau raised about $5,000 of the funds, while the remainder was contributed by Sooke firefighters, who have been holding store-front campaigns over the last three weeks.

“The hope is that we can reach our target of $25,000 cash because there’s always outstanding bills and so on from operating the Christmas Bureau this time of year, and it helps to sustain the operation of the food bank in the new year as well,” Bennett said.

He said the “bare bones” operation uses the money to purchase food hamper items like cereals, soups, stuffing boxes, tea and coffee at wholesale prices.

“Although we’re very well supported by the food suppliers in terms of getting a wholesale price, the reality is when that’s delivered to the Christmas Bureau to the food bank, they want cash in hand, so that’s what we have to be able to pay -- those bills,” Bennett said.

But even if the Christmas Bureau fails to meet their fundraising goal, Bennett said all food hamper applicants will still be serviced.

“We may run out of turkeys, we may run out of hams, but yes, nobody will be turned away, everybody will go home with some food,” he said.

Last year, the Christmas Bureau raised $24,000 in cash donations, received a large amount of donated non-perishable food items, and had over 500 food hamper applicants.

The number of applicants for this year are still being tabulated, but so far there are about 450 registered, which Bennett expects to increase. But he added, volunteers have also been more careful when selecting food hamper recipients.

“We’re being more careful in terms of screening the applicants and ensuring that they are getting a hamper from us then they’re not sort of trying to utilize another region, another area hamper supply. So, we’re trying to be as careful as we can because it’s an expensive process and at the same time we want to make sure that everybody that is in need is provided with a hamper.”

According to Bennett, the greatest challenge facing the Christmas Bureau is similar to the challenges encountered by local families -- the rising cost of food.

“Our biggest challenge is probably ensuring that we continue to receive the tremendous support of the greater community in order to have the necessary funds to provide us with the purchasing power to support the needs of the Christmas Bureau,” he said.

That being said, Bennett added the community has been very generous in their support.

“Good things continue to happen and that’s what we need to count on,” he said.

Just as a reminder, the Sooke Christmas Bureau cannot accept expired food items, items that are unsealed or opened and home-made preserves.

The Christmas Bureau is also looking for volunteers who may be willing to take on-call shifts from Dec. 20-22. Contact 250-642-1534 if interested.

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