For a second year Eleanor Simmers gets to play Santa Claus, organizing and assembling Christmas hampers for families registered with Whistler Community Services Society.
"We put in things that children may need like socks and gloves, but we also put in treats that they have asked for, like soft toys and candy," said Simmers, executive assistant for the society.
Over the next month Simmers will match sponsor businesses and families, with about 20 Whistler-area families who register for the Christmas hampers. With donations gathered from sponsors and from boxes provided by Waste Control Services, Simmers assembles hampers designed with each family's needs in mind. As well as items for children, Simmers, who assembles the hampers herself but has a team of volunteers to help deliver, says extra items like turkey vouchers, cranberry sauce and chocolate biscuits are included. "We may not put in potatoes, but we do include most of what makes up a Christmas dinner.
The society has been providing Christmas hampers to the Whistler community for 15 years. Simmers says filling the hampers is a rewarding and necessary task.
"Even if you're comfortably off, as many Whistler families are," Simmers said, "it doesn't take much to make a pretty quick turn around in your financial situation. If you get injured on the job or need expensive dental work, how long could you survive without some help?"
Although the average median family income for Whistler is $75,852, the median income for single parent families is $38,630, according to the most recent Statistics Canada community profile for the area.
Janet McDonald, executive director of the society, says although the number of hampers remains constant from one year to the next, the recipients change.
"When we call previous years' phone numbers, they often are out of service, meaning they've moved on."
At Christmas time the reality between have and have not is a stark comparison, Simmers says and that's where the hampers, which are delivered the weekend before Christmas, can help.
"The families are so thankful — the hampers make their Christmas complete."
To register for a Christmas hamper, call Whistler Community Services Society by Dec. 2, 604-932-0113.