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Support for food bank up this year

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Some Whistler residents made it through the holiday season this year with some extra help from the food bank.

In the week leading up to Christmas, Whistler's food bank was inundated with donations from various businesses, organizations and individuals in the community.

"This is a typical response from Whistler. It's a very generous community," said Janet McDonald, the executive director of the Whistler Community Services Society. "Christmas just makes people aware that there are others out there who are less fortunate than themselves."

McDonald said the events of Sept. 11 might have had an impact on how much money and food people have donated this year. Since the tragedy, people have been more interested in donating their time too.

"We have had more calls from people wanting to volunteer than in the past," she said.

At Whistler Secondary School, teacher Gail Rybar said she had never seen such a huge collection from the school before.

"I was quite startled when I saw so much come through," she said.

This year's collection of non-perishable items was organized solely by the members of the student council, because of the continuing job action by the teachers.

"We had a student come to each class and said the things that normally come from a teacher," said Rybar.

Rybar also said the tremendous outpouring of donations from the kids may also be attributed the events in the fall.

"It has hit kids as much as it has hit adults that things are uncertain," she said.

McDonald said there were many significant contributors to the food bank, citing the Whistler Real Estate Company, the two Rotary Clubs, the Children's Choir, the Chateau Whistler and the Delta Whistler Resort as some of their top donators.

Whistler-Blackcomb also made a significant contribution after asking those who attended their Christmas parties to bring a non-perishable item to the event. This has become a tradition at the company over the years.

With four Christmas parties at the conference centre and over 1,000 guests each night, Whistler-Blackcomb able to collect a large amount of food and some money.

"Other charities are also supported but the food bank is the biggest one," said Kirby Brown, director of employee experience at Whistler-Blackcomb.

Throughout the Christmas period, the food bank bumps up its hours and hands out food once a week, instead of just twice a month.

"If you don't do that you wind up doing a lot of urgent calls in between," said McDonald.

Every Monday between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. behind Our Lady of the Mountains church on Lorimer Road people can pick up non-perishable items to help them get through the holiday season.

"If it dies down, and I believe it will, we'll go back to regular distribution," she said.

McDonald said the people using the food bank will likely be the "Christmas orphans" who are away from home over the holiday season.

"We don't get as many families because our Christmas hampers cover the families," she said.

The food bank normally prepares between 20 and 25 hampers at Christmas. This year they only made 11, which McDonald said is very surprising.

"I think it's a combination of people moving out of the valley, families who found the cost of living too high, and perhaps there are families who are too shy to ask," she said.

But with the number decreasing by half she is hopeful that this is also a good sign.

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