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Christmas hampers being filled in annual Coast Realty campaign

Coast Realty Group is once again operating its Christmas Hamper Program to ensure needy families have something to celebrate come Dec. 25.

Hamper items include non-perishable food, toiletries, dinner fixings and gifts that help create personalized packages.

Comox Centre Mall has again donated a 4,000 square-foot space known as the 'warehouse,' being used for the third straight year to organize hampers. Come delivery day Dec. 22, the program puts a call to the community to deliver hampers.

"It's a feel-good experience to go out and knock on the door of that needy person and say, 'Here's your hamper. Have a Merry Christmas,' " program co-ordinator Rob Phillips said. "I think people enjoy doing it."

Coast Realty started the Sharing the Christmas Spirit Hamper Program in 1998. They took over from founder Tucky Schellinck, who started the program at her home.

"We're carrying the torch on her behalf," Phillips said. "We took it over and turned it into a Christmas phenomenon. Every year we keep getting tweaked better and better. Of course, we rely on the generosity and support of many private and corporate individuals."

Coast Realty filled about 70 hampers in its first year. Last year, volunteers filled 623 hampers. As of Friday, they had about 575 hampers.

"It would be good to know that the demand is down, but that's not strictly true because we've had to say no," Phillips said. "We'd like to support as many hampers as possible but we need the sponsors before we can open up the lines again. If more sponsors stepped up to the plate, we can increase those numbers.

"We still have about 23 unsponsored families," he added. "When that number drops we might open up the lines again, but right now our phone lines are closed. Being non-profit, we don't have bags of money."

The program will, however, take the "desperation cases," Phillips said.

About 270 hampers are being put together by 23 schools.

"They're a huge part of this," said Phillips, who thanks the "army of volunteers," especially Ken and Fay Jones, who run the warehouse.

All types of donations are accepted, though the program prefers not to receive used toys or clothing.

For information, phone the Hamper Hotline at 250-897-3999 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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