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Christmas spirit arrives

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Patti Cook, left, a volunteer helps fill a hamper of food for Jen Ralko, a singer mother of four children, ages 10, 8, 6 and 2, at the Kelowna Community Food Bank's Family Day on Tuesday. About 400 families were expected to come through the doors to receive Christmas hampers on Tuesday, with single people and couples going through today and Thursday.
Hundreds of people lined up for a Christmas hamper on family day Tuesday as the yuletide spirit approaches full swing.
The Kelowna Community Food Bank expects to hand out 1,200 hampers over three days this week to families and single people who may not otherwise get to chow down on turkey or exchange gifts. For Brenda August, who has two grown kids living at home, the generosity takes a burden off her shoulders.
"It feels awesome," she said. "My daughter just had a baby and her boyfriend lost his job a couple of months ago. I've been supporting both of them.
"They can't pay the rent so . . . they're staying with me now. And I have only a limited income for me and my son."
Cash donations to the food bank in October and November were $50,000 below the same period in 2012, a short-term trend that worried staff because the December campaign is crucial.
Food donations from private and small businesses also dropped this year, possibly because people contributed to victims of the typhoon in the Philippines last month.
Even so, donations to the food bank have picked up in the last two weeks. The weekend's Stuff the Bus fundraiser was the most successful yet. The phone is now ringing and cash pledges are pouring in.
"We're optimistic the community will open their hearts and give generously so we can continue to meet the needs over Christmas and into the new year," said Executive Director Lenetta Parry.
Similarly, the Daily Courier's Be an Angel campaign has stumbled a little at the starting line. The newspaper's effort to raise money for the food bank and the Okanagan Boys and Girls clubs now
exceeds $40,000. The sum is below last year's level at this time, but seems to be gaining momentum.
"It's tough economic times. Everyone knows that, but people are digging deep - even those who are our contributors," said Managing Editor Jon Manchester. "The need is greater that ever and we hope we hit our target by month's end."
Last year's campaign collected $115,000. Philanthropist Thomas Budd will match all donations at 25 cents on the dollar.
Proceeds help the food bank and Okanagan Boys and Girls Clubs through January and early February, when donations usually drop to zero as demand spikes. They help purchase the contents of each turkey hamper, which includes stuffing, Brussels sprouts, milk, eggs, soup and canned vegetables.
The economy is apparently recovering, said David Purdon, the food bank's associate executive director. Yet families
continue to struggle to put food on the table.
"Life is expensive," he said. "It's pretty hard to pay rent and feed a family on minimum wage."
People lined up outside the door to pick up the family hampers on Tuesday. Fifty volunteers helped out, demonstrating Kelowna's community spirit is alive and well.
Parry encouraged readers to contribute to Be an Angel and keep the spirit alive into the new year.
"Be an Angel is one of our largest fundraising campaigns of the holiday season. We hope people will read the stories and be inspired to support the campaign."
You can Be an Angel by donating at The Daily Courier, online at kelownadailycourier.ca or at any branch of Valley First Credit Union.

Following are recent donors to the Be an Angel campaign:
George Couldwell $100
Anonymous $100
Harmony Honda $2,350
Dave Dreidger $100
Lars & Gloria Pada $35
Brock & Pat Waldron - $50
In Memory of Sylvia and Kim Kerr - $500
A.B. Reynolds - $100
Debra Chubaty - $25
Mary Bright - 100
Gerald & Margaret Goyer - $30
Norman Arnott - $75
Jack & Myrna Houston - $100
Shawn Wylie - $100
Eunice Wyli - $100
Lois Hammill - $25
Anonymous - $100
Anonymous - $50
Anonymous - $50
Anonymous $2,000
Anonymous - $50
In Memory of Christina Nicole Thompson - $100
In Memory of Christina Nicole Thompson - $50
Jim & Annette Shackleton - $300
Dorothy & Christopher Dehart - $50
Chet & Les Gehue - $200
In Memory of Henry E. Justesen - $50
Phil and/or Emily Potts - $20
Anonymous - $80
THOMAS ALAN BUDD FOUNDATION TOTAL - $6,882.50
Total to date - $40,631
Goal - $115,000

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