Week of December 25, 2000
Drivers take hampers to the needy
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
Larry Ofner played Santa, Dec. 16, as he knocked on 10 doors in the city's north end.
When residents opened the door, they were greeted by his smile, maybe chattering teeth due to the minus 30C chill, red fuzzy Santa hat and a box filled with crackers, canned foods, mandarin oranges and, of course, a turkey.
For the past decade, Ofner, a retired school principal, has been part of the hundreds of volunteers who pack and deliver Christmas hampers to families in need.
This year, 330 volunteers participated in the annual Christmas hamper drive, sponsored by Catholic Social Services and the Christmas Bureau of Edmonton.
They spent the evening of Dec. 15 packing the hampers and most of the following day delivering. This was the 40th year CSS has been involved.
Mike McGowan, a Knight of Columbus from St. Theresa Church, was pleased that his council had the biggest showing this year.
"We have 41 teams," he said. "We challenged our council. It was a bit of a contest."
Some of the drivers came out as early as 3 a.m. to pick up their boxes.
"It doesn't take much time," said Alfred Harris, who was recruited by a friend to help deliver half a dozen hampers.
"It's nice to see the faces of people who receive it. They're so thankful for this box of food. It's really not much, but for them it's a big deal. It makes me think about how much I have."
Ofner, who has been accompanied by his wife in previous years, is comforted knowing some people will have enough to eat this Christmas.
"It's a great feeling when you come to someone's house and see these people in dire need and knowing that you can help them out," he said. "It's nice to see their smiles."
The hampers are delivered throughout Edmonton. As indicated on the guidelines for drivers, some hampers may be delivered to homes in more affluent areas.
Drivers are asked not to make quick assumptions or negative conclusions since poverty appears in varying ways, including abuse and abandonment.
Pat Finnan has lost count of how many times he's been helping with the hampers. He expects it's been about 20 years.
"I'm a creature of habit, I just keep coming back," he said.
The volunteers realize that what they do will not end poverty in the city, but it makes a little difference.
"You'll always have poverty," Finnan said. "But it's good to know you'll always have people willing to help."