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Beiseker hamper program accepting donations

Gail Peckham (centre) and her team of volunteers will once again deliver Christmas hampers, ensuring all Beiseker residents have a joyous holiday celebration. Photo Submitted/For Rocky View Publishing

The Village of Beiseker is working to ensure all members of the community have a happy holiday by providing food and gifts to folks facing hardships.

“We have this hamper program that is offered to the less fortunate in Beiseker and surrounding area,” said Gail Peckham, Christmas hamper co-ordinator. “We supply them with a week’s worth of food. We give them your typical Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, and gifts for everyone in the family.”

According to Peckham, Beiseker is a very generous community and always contributes to the success of the annual Beiseker Food Bank Christmas Hamper program.

“We absolutely want everyone in our little village and surrounding area to have a wonderful Christmas season,” she said.

There are two ways for residents to get involved, Peckham said. Some choose to sponsor specific families – with items like turkeys, hams and fresh produce already provided by organizations, she said, sponsors are typically asked to purchase gifts for the families they are matched with, and fill any food gaps in the hampers.

Other residents choose to make a more generalized donation. “A lot of food,” according to Peckham, will be collected during a food bank drive Dec. 7. (As the drive took place after press time, the total was unknown). The hamper program is specifically in need of non-perishable food items, she added, including staples like peanut butter and Christmas trimmings like cranberries and stuffing. At this time, due to an inability to safely store them, perishable food items are not accepted, Peckham said.

Gift items such as gloves, scarves, books and bath products are also welcome donations, she said, adding gift cards for toys, gas or groceries are particularly helpful as they allow families to make their own purchases after Christmas. Donations can be dropped off at the Village Office, Beiseker Pharmacy, Community Links, Mountain View Financial or Arcadia Café.

“We have Santa boxes in each of those locations, so [people] can drop off their unwrapped gifts there, and then I’ll pick them up,” Peckham said.

She added alternate arrangements can also be made for those who may be unable to drop off their donations.

Cash donations – which enable Peckham to purchase any gifts or food that may not have been donated – can also be made at the Village Office, she said.

To ensure donations are included in the hampers, Peckham noted, they need to be dropped off before the hampers are distributed on Dec. 20.

She added she is always looking for volunteers to help assemble the hampers, which will occur this year on Dec. 18 at Beiseker’s Community Links building. Volunteers will need to register ahead of time, she noted – drop-ins won’t be accommodated.

“It doesn’t always have to be a monetary donation,” she said. “It takes a small village to get all of these hampers organized, assembled and delivered.”

Meanwhile, anyone in need of a hamper this holiday season has until Dec. 16 to apply. According to Peckham, applicants will be required to submit the names and ages of all family members, along with their gift and food requests.

“We also require a very simple explanation as to why they’re in need of a Christmas hamper this year,” she said. “Often, it’s because of financial stresses.”

According to the December edition of Beiseker’s Mainline Express, eligibility for a hamper is based on financial need, and applicants may be screened. All requests are confidential, Peckham said, but hampers are only distributed to families with a Beiseker address. These include not only families with children, but also local seniors who may be isolated during the Christmas season.

Many families in the village have felt the impacts of economic downturn, Peckham said. During the holiday season, however, residents step up and display their generosity by contributing to the hamper program, she said, ensuring everyone in Beiseker can have a joyous holiday regardless of their situation.

“If it wasn’t for our generous residents, this program wouldn’t exist,” she said.

Anyone interested in sponsoring a family, making a donation, volunteering to assemble hampers or applying to receive a hamper can contact Peckham at 403-947-2841 for more information.

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