The packing of holiday food hampers ran so smoothly on Thursday that even Santa’s workshop now seems — by comparison — slow, inefficient and destined for automation.
Community leaders, corporate sponsors and volunteers came together to organize more than 400 boxes of food for families and individuals in need of a Christmas dinner this holiday season.
The annual event returned, bright and early, to the Horticulture Building at Lansdowne in support of The Caring and Sharing Exchange, a local charity that provides aid to individuals and families during Christmas, as well as to disadvantaged students during the back-to-school season.
The organization’s 103-year-old Christmas Exchange assistance program has seen significant growth, with 6,000-plus families on its list. That adds up to almost 19,000 people, said executive director Cindy Smith. More than half the recipients are children.
The charity has been able to meet most of this year's demands but, as of Thursday, there were still about 1,000 families waiting for a food hamper or redeemable gift voucher. “It’s not too late,” said Smith. “We’re reaching out to the community to help us reach our goal."
Participants filled cardboard boxes with milk, butter, bread, potatoes, carrot, onions, cookies, powdered hot chocolate, canned beans, cranberry sauce, stuffing mix and bags of apples. The turkeys were added later.
Many donned their trusty Christmas-themed attire, from neckties to Santa hats, as they worked together to fill the boxes.
It was the first time Mike LeClair, CEO of Ottawa Business Interiors (OBI), participated. He was very impressed with how well-organized the event was. “I would certainly do it again,” he added.
OBI shook things up this year by taking the money it normally spends on client holiday gifts and instead helping The Caring and Sharing Exchange provide 100 more food hampers. It sent out holiday cards to let its clients know about its donation, made in its clients’ honour. The reaction from clients was "overwhelmingly" positive, said LeClair.
Participants included Mayor Jim Watson and city councillors Jean Clouthier (Alta Vista) and Keith Egli (Knoxdale-Merivale). Also seen was Stéphane Giguère, CEO of Ottawa Community Housing.
For others, it was just fun to get out of the office. “Our daily routine can be a grind, so it’s nice to get the whole team out and see other companies and meet our political leaders,” said Peter Veselovsky, president of Konnexis, a Kanata-based software company that deals with the sterilization of medical devices on an industrial scale.