Four key players of this year’s Christmas Bureau came together on a rainy afternoon. From left to right: Deb Schenk (Harbourside Lions)

Christmas Bureau begins its work

Local volunteers gather donations for annual Christmas hampers

It’s baa-aack. Every year the Christmas Bureau in Sooke sets up and begins to collect donations for those who could use a hand at Christmas time. This year, kicking off this Friday, the Christmas giving begins again in Sooke.

Christmas support is no longer something for the unemployed. It’s crawling reach impacts the relatively new category of the working poor.

“Apparently, the food bank is up 16 per cent in their need,” said Pat Phillips, the public relations contact for the Christmas Bureau, in speaking about the growing number of the working poor. “They are now servicing 450 household a month.” These numbers were confirmed by Ingrid Johnson, the president of the Sooke Food Bank.

Earlier this year in May, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) and A Living Wage for Families announced the 2013 calculations for living wages. In the Greater Victoria area, which includes Sooke, the minimum livable wage works out to be $18.73, assuming a Cleaver-like family of four with two working adults.

The steady degradation of wages, in part, accounts for the regular annual increase in recipients.

The Christmas Bureau is a seasonal extension of Sooke’s Food Bank, and is graciously supported by the District of Sooke, the Fire Rescue Service, volunteers, and the community at large.

Giving made easy

In collaboration with the Sooke Fire Rescue Services, the Christmas Bureau campaign kicks off at 1 p.m. on Friday, November 22, in front of both Village Food Market and Western Foods. The campaign will run full force on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until the culminating event, the Annual Santa Run on Saturday, December 14.

Food items desperately needed include carrots, apples and onions by the bag, canned fruit, canned cranberry sauce, stuffing mix and canned tomato sauce. An $8,000 grant from the District of Sooke will go towards purchasing Christmas turkeys. All other donations, including cash, will also be gratefully received. This year, the Bureau is aspiring to match last year’s total of $25,000.

The Sooke Harbourside Lions will continue to collect news toys in colourful Christmas boxes placed throughout the business community in Sooke, and the Sooke Lioness will be supporting all efforts of the campaign as well.

The Annual Santa Run is when a fully- decorated fire truck drives around in Sooke starting at 5 p.m., collecting donations. Paper bags are distributed in the Sooke News Mirror before this run, enabling easy collection of non-perishables. The fire truck does sound its siren, alerting residents to its arrival. If you think you may have missed it, Fire Chief Steve Sorensen said you can call the station (non-emergency number 250-642-5422). They can let you know where the truck is at, and if you have indeed missed it, they can arrange to have your donations picked up.

Signing up to receive

Applications can be picked up in Sooke at three locations: The Sooke Family Resource Society (locally referred to as CASA,  (open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.), the Sooke Food Bank (open on the first, second and third Thursdays of each month from 9:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. ), and the Sooke Crisis Centre (open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.). Completed forms must be in by December 6 in order to receive a Christmas hamper. Hampers will be available for pickup at the Sooke Community Hall on December 21, starting at 9:30 a.m.

This year, C-FAX’s Santa’s Anonymous has extended their assistance to our area as they have recognized the plight of the Sooke Christmas Bureau. Not only will Santa’s Anonymous be supplying food hampers but toys as well, to approximately 200 families with children, from East Sooke to Port Renfrew. The remaining single or childless families will receive hampers from the Sooke Christmas Bureau.

Volunteers still needed

Donations will be collected in front of Village Food Markets, Western Foods, and Shoppers Drug Mart. The Christmas Bureau is seeking volunteers to assist with the food collection (up until December 14), sorters ( up until December 21) and distributers (on December 21).

“The shifts are reasonable, and fun is guaranteed,” writes Pat Phillips in a press release. The Sooke Lionesses will be there to serve a lunch to the volunteers on December 20 and the 21.

The Harbourside Lions will be on hand to provide warm drinks, lots of laughter, and big hearts on distribution day.

Those interested in volunteering with food collection can call the Fire Chief Sorensen, at 250-642-1630. Those interested in sorting can call Lynne Bruhn at 250-642-1534

Supporting events

Also raising money and donations for the Sooke Christmas Bureau is the Sooke Philharmonic Orchestra. The Sooke Philharmonic Chamber Players will be performing with the Sooke Philharmonic Chorus for their Christmas Carol Sing-along. Wade Noble will be conducting the “Season’s Splendour” on Saturday, November 30 at the Sooke Baptist Church. The performance starts at 7:30 p.m., and a portion from every ticket sold will go towards their Christmas fundraising activities.