Our Community: Belmont food drive aims high

Students at Belmont Secondary School are hoping to collect 10,000 non-perishable food items at their 10,000 Tonight event on Wednesday.

Organized by Grade 10 to 12 students in the Belmont leadership class, the annual event collects donations of food and cash to benefit the Goldstream Food Bank.

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“We plan to knock on every door in Colwood and Langford,” said Ravina Parmar, a Grade 12 student and one of the organizers of the event. She said it is the West Shore’s biggest food drive, with about 200 volunteers going door-to-door soliciting donations.

“We created 80 updated maps this year,” said Amelia Jolie, another young organizer of the event.

As well as volunteers knocking on doors, others would be driving or helping sort food items in the school’s gym on the night of the drive. People are invited to drop off donations on the night of the event or anytime during school hours this week.

Festival of Trees runs to Jan. 6

The Festival of Trees is an inexpensive and fun way to kick-off the holiday season — and get great ideas to decorate one’s tree. The annual event, a fundraiser for the B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation, is celebrating its 23rd year.

Hallways at the Empress Hotel turn into pathways surrounded by beautifully decorated trees.

Decorating themes for the trees are limited only by the creativity and imagination of the sponsors, local businesses, organizations and individuals involved in the fesival. This year is shaping up to be the best yet, with 74 trees imaginatively decorated throughout the hotel.

Teams compete for the People’s Choice Award.

People are encouraged to donate $2 or more every time they vote — and they can vote as many times they wish. Last year, people cast more than 12,500 votes, raising almost $25,000 to help B.C. sick children.

Similar forests have popped up in other parts of the province, including Vancouver, Sooke, Port Alberni, Nanaimo and Osoyoos. Collectively they raised more than $205,000 last year for the hospital foundation, making it the largest single Vancouver Island fundraising event for the organization.

The epicentre of the festival is the Tea Lobby at the hotel, though the trees are spread throughout. (The Times Colonist tree, #23, is located next to the piano in the lobby.) Maps giving the locations of trees can be found at any of the ballot boxes.

The trees are free to view. Organizers suggest people limit their viewing to 11 p.m. nightly. The event runs until Jan. 6 at the hotel, 721 Government St. For more information, go to bcchf.ca/events/event-calendar/festival-of-trees.

Vining Street party pays off for community groups

Organizers of the annual Vining Street Party on the Plaza recently wrote a $7,750 cheque to the Learning Disabilities Association of B.C., South Vancouver Island and a $250 cheque for Puppets for Peace. The two donations are proceeds from their party and fundraiser in September.

More than 1,500 people attended the event under blue skies, made possible by the work of 40 volunteers and more than 200 businesses.

Christmas Spirit Dinner could use your help

The Christmas Spirit Community Dinner is an opportunity to spread the true spirit of the season for those less fortunate. More than 700 people are expected to attend.

Organizers are still looking for volunteers for a multitude of roles for the dinner, which celebrates 24 years of caring. People interested in helping out are invited to attend a meeting to find out what is available.

The meeting runs from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. today at the McDonald’s restaurant at Shelbourne Street and Cedar Hill X Road. For more information, go to christmasspiritdinner.ca.

Vote for your favourite gingerbread house

Don’t forget to view 25 gingerbread houses at 6th annual Canada’s National Gingerbread Showcase over the holiday season.

The event is a fundraiser to support Habitat for Humanity Victoria and its efforts to make affordable home ownership possible for lower-income families living in need.

Last year, the event raised more than $21,000.

Created by both professional and home chefs, all the houses reflect this year’s theme: Where Things Live. This invites bakers to dream up visions of building a snowman’s home, the inside of an elf’s abode or even the pasture for Santa’s reindeer.

You can vote for your favourite creation in exchange for a donation.

Viewing is available from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. The creations will be on display until Jan. 4 at the Inn at Laurel Point, 680 Montreal St. For more information, go to laurelpoint.com/ christmas-2014/gingerbread.

Concert to celebrate Silver Threads’ new home

The Silver Threads Services is celebrating the recent relocation of their Victoria centre and the kickoff of the holiday season with a Christmas concert on Thursday.

There will be performances by well-known local entertainer Louise Rose and musical guests, Wine & Roses Ladies Salon Orchestra.

Free refreshments will be served.

The concert is free. The festivities run from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the centre, 2340 Richmond Rd. Please call to confirm at 250-388-4268.

Silver Threads Service is a charitable, not-for-profit society that provides programs and services that enhance social connections and well-being for seniors, including those at risk. For more information, go to silverthreads.ca.

Lieutenant-governor to grace Christmas Tea

The Canadian Club of Victoria is hosting its annual Christmas Tea on Saturday with special guest, Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon.

Attendees get treated to traditional English afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel. The afternoon program includes recognition of Camosun College Bursary Award winners, inauguration of a new Canadian Club award for new citizens and seasonal music.

Tickets are $45. The event is from 1:45 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Crystal Ballroom of the hotel, 721 Government St. Guests are asked to arrive by 1:45 to be seated before Guichon arrives at 2 p.m. Reservations are required — please call 250-370-1837 by Thursday or visit eventbrite.ca to purchase tickets. For more information, go to thecanadianclubofvictoria.com.

Hospital gala raises $460,000 for health care

Last week’s Victoria Hospitals Foundation’s 24th annual Visions gala raised more than $460,000 for health care on Vancouver Island.

The black-tie function at the Empress raised funds through ticket sales, a live and silent auction, raffle, cash donations and community sponsorships.

The event is a major component of the foundation’s Fall Campaign, which this year aims to raise $725,000 to fund the purchase of three cardiac ultra-sound machines. Called Transesophageal Echocardiogram Machines, this state-of-the-art equipment takes 3-D high-definition, full-colour images of the heart. It is used to diagnose heart disease and defects and guide crucial repairs during cardiac surgery. For more information, go to victoriahf.ca.

Free choir concert at St. Luke’s tonight

Enjoy an evening of choral music and readings for Advent at St. Luke’s Church tonight.

While the event is free, an offering for the Shelbourne Community Kitchen will be taken. This new project provides support through a neighbourhood resource centre for those who lack adequate access to healthy food in the Shelbourne area.

The kitchen strives to be a place of belonging and community as well the source of a bag of groceries for those in need.

Tonight’s service is free. It starts at 7 p.m. at the church, 3821 Cedar Hill Cross Rd. For more information about the kitchen, go to shelbournecommunitykitchen.ca or stlukesvictoria.ca.

Duncan food bank benefits from Jo Wright show

The recent Jo Wright and Friends fundraising concert was close to a sellout, raising more than $3,200 for the Cowichan Valley Basket Society — The Duncan Foodbank. For more information and to donate, go to cvbs.ca.

Real estate board raises $6,000 for KidSport B.C.

The Vancouver Island Real Estate Board has raised more than $6,000 for KidSport B.C.

The funds were the proceeds of the organization’s second annual President’s Cup Golf Tournament, held in August. KidSport provides grants to children 18 and under, allowing them to participate in a sports season of their choice.

“Too often, families are unable to afford the costs of sport registration fees. As a result, kids are left on the sidelines,” said Ron Doetzel, representative for the organization’s Port Alberni chapter.

“KidSport helps by issuing grants to cover the cost of registration fees for a season of sport. In the Port Alberni chapter alone, we’ll help 200 kids play sports this year.”

The money raised will be distributed among four of KidSport’s five Vancouver Island affiliates.

KidSport was established in 1993 by Sport B.C. as a community-based sport-funding program to help eliminate financial barriers that prevent children from playing organized sports. In 2013, KidSport distributed more than $6 million in grants to more than 57,000 children and youth across Canada.

For more information, go to kidsportcanada.ca.

Arbutus Singers present annual concert Wednesday

The Arbutus Singers, a community choir with 70 members, presents their annual Family and Friends Christmas Concert Wednesday.

The one-hour concert includes Christmas favourites such as Carol of the Bells, We Three Kings and Ave Maria along with other appropriate seasonal favourites such as John Lennon’s Imagine, the Hollies’ He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother and Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.

Proceeds go to Choir Kids, a program for children in four Victoria elementary schools.

Tickets are $15, $10 for seniors and students, and $30 family at the door. The concert starts at 7:30  p.m. at First Metropolitan United Church, at Quadra Street and Balmoral Road. Refreshments will be served afterward. For more information, go to arbutussingers.com.

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