Hampers, hampered, hampering

Did my Christmas bit last Wednesday – enjoyed an afternoon hanging out in beautiful big Earle Clarke House

with Joyce and Peter, who every year host a gathering of 70-100 elves who come and go throughout the day bringing food and packing it into giant hampers for needy families in the area. This year the Salvation Army was seeking to provide some 1300 hampers in all, which come from local organisations and community groups as well as more informal groups like this one.

When I left, the turkey (and therefore hamper) count was a record-breaking 65; after I left the tally rose to an amazing 76. Not bad for word of mouth.

It’s a fiendishly simple idea: you just invite everyone you know, ask them to bring what they wish from the list – or raise cash donations to buy what’s needed – and then feed and water them while they work, and somehow it all comes together. It helps that Joyce is supremely well-organised and understands the power of good sign-posting.

She also makes a gorgeous Christmas cake, terrific pea soup and great eggnog,

and cranberry punch

for her grateful workers.

Joyce reports that three of the hampers went to the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder Community Circle’s “Moms Mentoring Moms,” which provides support services to mothers trying to raise families where addiction has been a problem. The other 73 hampers went to the Salvation Army, along with cases of extra carrots, brussels sprouts and potatoes. She says that it took seven burly Salvation Army volunteers and two big trucks to collect it all.

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