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Good Neighbours: Gift wrappers help a good cause

Shoppers invited to visit storefront at Bay Centre

Christmas shoppers can make a difference for the less-fortunate again this year by donating to the 14th annual Spirit of Giving campaign at the Bay Centre.

The campaign, which runs until Dec. 24, has brought in more than $2.9 million in cash and food donations for the Mustard Seed Food Bank since its inception in 1999.

Shoppers can contribute by visiting the Mustard Seed display at the Bay's second-floor storefront, where they are invited to donate a food item or money in exchange for gift wrapping done by volunteers.

Rev. Chris Riddell of the Mustard Seed said the Spirit of Giving is vital to the food bank, and has had an impact every year it has been held.

He said the Mustard Seed continues to have a "challenging" time, something that came into focus in October with the news that there had been a 20 per cent drop in monetary donations in the previous two years.

The report came just as the Mustard Seed was preparing to take part in the Great Canadian Food Fight, a national food-donation competition that Riddell said provided a good springboard into the Christmas season.

"But we haven't got our heads above the concern level yet," he said.

Still, Riddell said things have picked up and the response from the public has been inspiring.

He said that November and December donations typically account for 65 per cent of what the Mustard Seed brings in each year, so the coming weeks are important.

"We'll know at the end of December where we sit," he said.

About 7,000 people rely on the Mustard Seed Food Bank each month.

Seasonal support for the Gold-stream Food Bank comes Wednesday with Belmont Secondary School's annual 10,000 Tonight event.

Students and other volunteers will fan out in neighbourhoods around the school with a goal of collecting at least 10,000 non-perishable food items from 4: 30 to 10 p.m.

Food banks will also benefit from the third year of a Canadian Blood Services initiative called Bleed and Feed.

The idea is to gather more than 14,000 blood donations province-wide from Dec. 1 to Jan. 2, while encouraging donors to bring a non-perishable food item along to their appointments.

Book a donation time at or call 1-888-2-DONATE.


Friends of Bonnie Pollard are pooling their talents for a Wednesday fundraiser they've dubbed Christmas Presence.

The 7-9: 30 p.m. event at Glad Tidings Church will combine music, readings and more on behalf of Pollard, a mother of two who is battling breast cancer. Her supporters want to raise money to help her with financial issues that have arisen since she became sick.

Leading the way will be Karen Elgersma, Dan Kahan and other Shaw TV personalities, along with CTV's Astrid Braunschmidt. A silent auction will also be held.

Admission is by donation.

For more details, send an email to


A quick pit stop on the way to work or on your morning coffee break Friday will mean a lot to the Cridge Respitality Service.

The service, run by the Cridge Centre for the Family, gives parents of disabled children an overnight respite in one of several participating hotels. About 350 families use the service, which has been operating for 11 years and is currently supported by 25 hotels.

Another 20 businesses help with gift baskets for program participants, said Cridge spokeswoman Shannon Whissell.

Visitors are invited to drop by the centre at 1307 Hillside Ave. between 7: 30 a.m. and 10: 30 a.m. There will be refreshments (including cupcakes donated by Ooh La La Cupcakes), Christmas music in the Grand Lounge and a stocking hung for anyone wishing to drop in a donation to support respitality efforts.


Everyone from downtown shoppers to tourists to nearby residents is welcome at the annual Christmas Carol Sing-Along on Thursday at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church.

The church, located at the corner of Broughton and Douglas streets, hosts the free event to bring the Christmas spirit to the community.

The unique program includes many young soloists - and allows members of the audience to call out their favourite carols.

Violinist Aline Dumalski will also be taking part. Cathie Lylock will be conducting.

The sing-along runs from noon to 1 p.m., with doors opening at 11: 45 a.m. Hot apple drinks and cookies will be served.

Call 250-384-5734 for more information.


Victoria is part of the Homeless Partners Christmas Wish List program a for a fourth straight year.

The program has caught on in a number of cities since it was started in Vancouver in 2005. It is based on the simple concept of talking to the homeless to find out what they want most for Christmas, and then inviting the public to choose someone to buy for.

Wishes are posted on

In Victoria, wishes for this Christmas range from nail polish to steel-toed boots to phone cards for keeping in touch with relatives.

Interviews for the program have been done by members of the Shelbourne Street Church of Christ, who are working in conjunction with the Victoria Cool Aid Society.

Interviews have taken place at three Cool Aid facilities - Next Steps Transitional Shelter, Rock Bay Landing Shelter and Sandy Merriman House. Gifts are needed by Dec. 22 to ensure Christmas delivery.


John Boraas is one of 10 people across the country recognized as a 2012 winner of the Peter Gzowski Award, named for the late CBC Radio personality and literacy advocate.

The award was presented by Literacy Victoria, the lone B.C. group that supports the Peter Gzowski Foundation for Literacy with an annual event.

Boraas, the vice-president of education at Camosun College, was honoured for his longtime commitment to adult literacy. His efforts have included collaboration with Literacy Victoria, which matches learners and volunteer tutors.

Camosun also works with such organizations as the Bridges for Women Society and the Victoria Native Friendship Centre through its learning-partnership programs.


An event called Coats for Cover will give anyone headed to the Strathcona Hotel's Club9ONE9 later this week a chance to get in for free. Bring along a gently used coat on Friday or Saturday night and there will be no cover charge.

All coats collected will be given to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Victoria.