When I was a kid, most things were tied with string. When we unwrapped the parcel, the string was put in a drawer for later use. From time to time someone would open the drawer, take out the pieces, knot them together and make a ball of string. As I tell this story, I feel as if I have been teasing out memories and tying them together. There is more string to be tied together. You will find it in the hearts and minds of those faithful volunteers of the Squamish Community Christmas Care Team.
Shirley and I had been in Squamish little more than a year as the 1980 Christmas season approached. This is when the community of Squamish started to recognize the need to help the disadvantaged families during this time. It all started when George Gilmore approached Wendell Teel with this problem Squamish was facing and Wendell suggested involving the churches of the community. So this is how it was for the first year. The call was put out for volunteers and we began the gathering, sorting, and delivery process, all from the basement of our home.
We were better organized in 1981 with more helpers and more groceries to deliver. We moved our depot from the basement of our home into the back room of the Squamish Times building. The process was developing.
It didn’t take long before we realized that we needed a more formal organization to manage SCCC. We did this in the form of a society, enlisting the Ministers of Squamish. We began to assemble a list of businesses and organizations from whom we hoped to get financial assistance and we asked the public to donate either non-perishable food items or money. This meant that we needed to add a treasurer and an auditor to our committee. As a society we would submit annual reports to the federal government. We wanted to assure the public that everything would be done in an honest manner. We didn’t operate many years until we decided to save some of the money that always arrived late so that we would have start-up funds for the next year. As well, some of the excess funds donated throughout the year is allotted to organizations (i.e. Helping Hands Society) and local churches directly involved in caring for the less fortunate in our community throughout the year, not just at Christmas (this money is set aside only for caring for people in need with items like blankets, winter boots, and non perishable food / grocery coupons).
From the onset, the greatest challenge each year was finding a depot; a place where we could store all the groceries and gifts that began to be amassed, as well as the hundreds of hampers that would be needed to complete our project. When the Squamish Times building became too small, everyone was on the lookout for a large space that was secure, clean and relatively out of the public eye. Throughout the years we moved to different locations, you name it, we were there. The list includes, in no particular order, empty storefronts, the ex-liquor store, downstairs in the brewpub parking area, and for a few years we practically took over the Cedar Valley Church in Valleycliffe.
Aside from this challenge, most other things just fell into place. The collection boxes in the stores and churches, the use of borrowed shopping carts on packing day, the team that numbered and stockpiled the filled hampers on delivery day. It was a wonder the way people arrived to get the hampers filled and then the next day, an almost totally different crew brought trucks and vans and did the deliveries. All the little details were important, like the McDonald’s hamburgers and juices to feed the packers and the Tim Horton’s coffee and donuts to keep the delivery people going. All the volunteers were vital to the plan.
The Squamish Community Christmas Care society continues to operate in this way today. There are still challenges, but the joy that comes from seeing the community come together through helping others exceeds them all.