Treena Beauchamp and Vince Prince have been organizing and coordinating the seasonal effort to fill bellies and stockings for about five years.
The pair have worked hard to streamline the process with good planning and spreadsheets to ensure the food hampers get filled and supplies arrive on time, but this year they will be unable to do the bulk of the coordinating.
Prince has taken a new job in Prince George as the new president and CEO of the Aboriginal Business and Community Development Centre.
So the couple will be relocating to Prince George for the time being, and while they are willing to come back to help whoever takes over, they need someone new to take the reins.
They will be leaving Fort St. James at the end of September, but will be back and forth for awhile and can train new coordinators for the role.
The two became coordinators about five years ago when their son Colton got them involved when he was in Grade 11 and doing his volunteer hours in school.
High school students are a big part of making the drive happen each year, coming down to sort food and fill and pack hampers. The student council especially were very involved in past years.
“They were huge,” said Beauchamp.
But there are also a strong core of regular volunteers, and Beauchamp has been touching base with them and everyone is still keen to pitch in and help.
As coordinators, the couple puts in over 60 hours through the month and a half or so of preparation to do the Food and Toy Drive, and it’s a lot of organization to keep everything running smoothly, but they have worked hard to make it easier each year.
Spreadsheets with deadlines and slowly building up some resources such as signs for sorting and now a banner for the pick-up and hamper storage location have all made a difference in the operation going off without hitches.
They have found the experience well worth their efforts.
“It’s very rewarding,” said Beauchamp.
The drive has been built up with little to no money, and all of the community gets involved, with schools having challenges between classes to bring the most donations, businesses giving generously in different ways, and also private donations.
They even get sponsorship from as far away as Burns Lake and Prince George.
Some of the younger students also come and help out with the workload.
“I can’t say enough about how these kids are a big part of it,” said Beauchamp.
Each year there is fluctuation in the number of hampers which go out, usually over one hundred and last year they put out just under 120 hampers to struggling families and singles.
The hampers normally include about a week’s worth of groceries and the fixings for a full Christmas dinner for a family or smaller version for singles.
Applications are taken at Nak’azdli Band Office, BC Access and the Ministry of Children and Families.
The collection of boxes normally starts by November, and the collecting is usually done by the beginning of December so there is time for sorting and packing.
“It’s a lot of responsibility,” said Beauchamp.
But when it all comes together, it is a site to see, with “controlled chaos,” according to Prince, and a great feeling seeing how happy and grateful people are.
Anyone interested in coordinating or helping out with the drive can contact Treena Beachamp at 996-0008 or email@example.com.