The Christmas Hamper project has been in existence for over 30 years, providing much needed relief to the many families at Christmas time.  This project initially began with providing toys to underprivileged children and food hampers were added at a later date. We were provided with a list of people by the National Assistance Board and, with the help of Bridgetown merchants and supermarkets and many other contributors, too numerous to list, we initially packed hampers at Firgos, courtesy of Carl Bourne, who sadly passed away in late 2011.  Club members may also recommend families who are in need of assistance. Packing was also at Bruce Hill in Warrens and, more recently, hosted by Rotarians Christopher Hoyte and PP Farid Mansour.

PP Joseph Steinbok continues to conduct the fundraising for this worthy cause. PP Kevin Watson for many years has also been a force, with many others organising the supplies for the hampers, now numbering about 150.  Each hamper is actually three large boxes filled with tea, coffee, fish, corned beef, rice, ground provisions, sugar and much more.  The Rotarians, after assembling their boxes of goodies, then deliver them to the families.

Toy Cheer was expanded in 1980 by Past President (PP) Andrew St. John.   We launched at Cave Shepherd, Broad Street and Star Discount in Worthing, where we begged shoppers to make a donation of some kind of toy to place in the barrels.  We went to schools – St. Gabriel’s, St. Winifred’s, the Convent and others, for toys and books that were still in good condition.  One year, PPs Patrick Nehaul, Tony Mahabir and a visiting Bajan were in Haynesville, on Christmas Eve.  They had difficulty finding the recipients, so they asked a young boy on his bicycle to be their guide.  Things progressed quite smoothly, until they got to the play park (which Rotary had built).  Word had, by this time, spread like wildfire that three Santa Clauses were giving away free food and toys in the nieghbourhood.   Suddenly they were surrounded by a huge group of people, eager to get the goodies.  They left some packages of toys and beat a hasty retreat.  On the way home they delivered the rest of the hampers to people, not on the list, but clearly in need. 

The hamper program was extended to include an Easter delivery, which places more pressure to procure supplies.  In these uncertain economic times, we have to work harder to keep the food items at the appropriate levels.  We rely on our loyal sponsors, who have supported us through the years and we hope that, despite the economy, they will continue with their contributions to support this worthy cause, ensuring that needy families can benefit from the partnership of Rotary West and our long-term benefactors.

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