Charla Huber: Hampers were a part of my childhood Christmas

Last week, the Times Colonist launched its annual Christmas Fund. Living in Victoria, this fund is something we hear about every year, and over the course of the campaign this newspaper does a great job sharing stories of people in our region who benefit from the Times Colonist Christmas Fund.

I didn’t grow up here in Victoria, but most of my childhood I looked forward to a big brown cardboard box full of food coming to my house right before Christmas. For all of my early childhood Christmases, my family received a hamper. In all honesty, it didn’t feel like Christmas until we received our Christmas hamper.

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I don’t ever recall knowing only poor families received them, but I knew not everyone got one.

I have fond memories of these hampers filled with treats, crackers and other items that would arrive in our home once a year. My brother and I would go through the box, looking to see what treats found their way into our home, and we knew that this was the only way some of them would ever find their way into our home.

I know there are a lot of charities that ask for donations; there are also a lot of people who can benefit from receiving donated items, especially around the holidays.

It’s tough being a kid in a family that has less than others. I lived in subsidized housing before I ever knew what that even meant. It wasn’t until I was in Grade 2 that I realized we were poor. After Christmas that year, my teacher asked every child in the class to announce to the class what the best gift was that they received that year. (Let’s remember it was the 1980s, and I don’t think this type of class exercise would fly nowadays.) I heard all the kids in my class mention nearly every toy I had seen advertised on television. That was a defining moment in my life, when I realized that children actually received the toys advertised on television. I had somehow just thought that they were the things kids would see on TV but never actually got.

Later in life, when I was a newspaper reporter in my mid-20s, I wrote a Christmas column that I titled “Everything I ever wanted for Christmas and never got.” I thought the headline was funny and wanted to take a humorous approach. I figured it was something that everyone could relate to. I wrote about Easy Bake ovens and the talking Teddy Ruxpin bear with a cassette player in his back. My newsroom was small, and when I asked my colleagues what toys they always wanted and never received, they looked at me blankly and said they had always received all the toys the wanted. I felt like I was back in Grade 2 all over again.

As you read this, you are probably in one camp or the other. You either know the coveted toy you always wanted and never had, or you are having a hard time relating to this. There’s no right or wrong here, just two different experiences.

All year long it’s hard to be the kid with less, but somehow at the holidays it’s harder. There are kids who will feel left out of getting the cool toys, and even worse, there will be children who go without food or the experience of having a nice meal during the holidays.

It’s not just children who appreciate getting a little extra, there are single people, couples and seniors who all struggle, too. It’s nice to be reminded of the kindness that our city has within it.

The Times Colonist Christmas Fund is just one of the many ways you can show your support for a family or person in need. You might never hear a “thank you” from the recipient of your donation, but it doesn’t mean it went unnoticed.

How to donate

Go to timescolonist.com/donate. That takes you to the Canada Helps website, which is open 24 hours a day and provides an immediate tax receipt.

• Mail a cheque, payable to the Times Colonist Christmas Fund Society, to the Times Colonist Christmas Fund, 2621 Douglas St., Victoria V8T 4M2.

• Use your credit card by phoning 250-995-4438 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday to Friday. Outside those hours, leave a message, you will get a call back.

Charla Huber is the director of communications and Indigenous relations for M’akola Housing Society.

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