44 Cowichan families still need a sponsor to save Christmas

Tough times have pushed Cowichan Neighbourhood House to send out a last minute call for help.

According to volunteer Arlene Robinson they still need sponsors for 44 families in their hamper campaign this year.

"We had 50 still on the list but we’ve had six more adopted, but we’re desperately looking for help for sponsors for the others. We’re on the phone constantly. We’ve been to different stores and stuff. I’m sure we’ll do it but it’s just more difficult this year. I think the times are harder. People are just concerned about their jobs, their own work," she said.

"Last year we didn’t have any trouble filling the list right off the bat and this year it’s been a real struggle right to the end. People are saying: ‘Gee, I did it last year but this year we’re really counting our pennies, we’re watching what we’re spending. It’s tight out there, especially because the majority of the people that sponsor are not wealthy. They’re just everyday neighbours who want to help out. Now they’re just concerned that more jobs might go down at the mill, or businesses might close. They are worried about so much."

Robinson said she’s pleased in one way that Chemainus folks are keeping an eye on taking on extra spending but it still means that Neighbourhood House is scrambling.

"Right now it’s a case of so many people being unemployed. And it’s not just young people but all ages. Some of the people that come in here have really good educations and can’t find a job. It’s a difficult time for everyone," she said. The number of families on the list is about the same as last year. "But this year we’re getting calls from people that are referred by Salvation Army or by the food banks because their cut-off dates were at the beginning of December."

It’s meant even more of a push in Chemainus. "In the last two days I’ve had to tell 10 people, ‘Call back on Wednesday and we’ll see what we can do.’ But I have to fill the ones who have already filled out forms first. Then I will take anything extra and spread it out amongst the people that are left the best I can. I could easily have another 10 people but I have to do these first. Once I have them I will carry on and do the others.

"So that’s what we’re up against right now," Robinson said. Volunteers are preparing hampers right now.

"We usually get them out just before our annual community potluck dinner, which is being held on Saturday, Dec. 20 this year. [Doors open at 5:30, with dinner at 6 p.m.]," Robinson said.

"We’re trying to get all the hampers done by then so I can give my volunteers a well-deserved break but if not we’ll be carrying on until next week," she said. "Last year we actually handed one out on Christmas Eve so you never know."

Want to help out? Contact Cowichan Neighbourhood House at 250-246-3203 or 250-246-7503.

There you can learn about sponsoring a family or even help out only one person, Robinson said, adding that there is a big range needing sponsorship.

"Some of the families we have include two senior citizens who wouldn’t be celebrating Christmas at all if we didn’t help them out. We have one large family; we try to do the big families with the kids first and worry about us adults later but we want to help them all," she said.

The centre’s volunteers are busy right now, gathering the final things to top up the hampers with Christmas dinner fixings and Robinson posted notices on the Cowichan Neighbourhood House Facebook page urging people to buy both turkeys and hams to donate because turkeys are expensive this year and a smaller family might be very happy with a small ham.

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