Every year Riverside students gather school spirit together for a collection of food and gifts for Christmas hampers. As a collective group, students in their STREAM homerooms will have an opportunity to bring in any donations (cash, gifts or food) for their class. Many people from the Riverside community came together to make this year’s Food Hampers happen. The final haul of food boxes was significant, plus many gift cards and a cheque for $2648.55 was given to SHARE.

The final haul of food boxes for pick-up!

Riverside has been helping vulnerable people in need through the Food Hampers every year since 1996. The first hamper drive for SD43 schools was in 1978 by Maillard Middle School, and the tradition has carried on through the school district doing hampers every year.

According to Kasey Chittenden, a Riverside counselor, the Caring Neighbor program is a program where SHARE matches up Riverside’s students in (what used to be) RAP with different families who need extra support. But unfortunately, this year, just like last year, the school was not able to do the Caring Neighbor program. “This year we are doing a general food hamper to provide food to the food bank, and they will allocate the food to families who need it,” said Chittenden.

Due to the COVID-19, last year’s Riverside’s food hampers were executed a little bit differently; SHARE was unsure if doing the hampers would be a feasible option last year due to social distancing restrictions, and so they gave the option of putting all the donations together in a food bank style collection instead of individual families. SHARE ended up taking all the food Riverside students and staff collected and donated it all together for families in need.

This year the hampers are being organized mainly by two Riverside staff members: Sheri Thomasen and Chittenden, as well as, a grade 12 student, Jalene Niguma is involved as a part of her grade 12 Capstone project. Chittenden has participated in organizing and collecting Christmas food hampers for a while at Riverside.

She shared her opinions on their importance and effectiveness of the school’s initiative.“It’s a challenging time of the year for a lot of people, and it’s important that we support our community and help however we can if we are in a position to do so.”

A persistent topic was the opinion on how personalized the hamper donations were pre-COVID. “The caring neighbor program can’t happen, so I guess not understanding the composition of the families and not knowing what they need takes away the personal aspect, especially the personal delivery by students to families, but with this current system, it’s still going to people who need it,” said Chittenden.

To prepare students for the hampers in STREAM, a video was presented promoting the cause and an activity to generate a list of possible donations. On December 13 and 14, there will be a 5-minute STREAM class from 9am-9:05 for students to bring in donations. On Thursday, December 16, there will be one final STREAM class to collect final donations and bring each STREAM’s boxes to the front foyer for SHARE pick up.

Niguma, along with teacher Brian Barazzuol, organized the STREAM classes, media and activities shown. Jalene did an online interview with a SHARE representative, which was presented to the STREAM classes on the first Wednesday, December 1, 2021. “I did the video so I could learn more about the hampers at Riverside,” said Niguma. The video she filmed and presented covered what and who SHARE is, how students can help, and why food hampers around Christmas are important for a variety of people with diverse needs.

Through organizing and helping Riverside with the hampers, Niguma commented that helping others, helps her develop more self-awareness. “I’m really passionate about helping others and I’ve always wanted to help others; I feel like through helping others I have learnt a lot about myself and about how much I take for granted. I feel like this is given me more self-awareness of who I am,” said Niguma.

Riverside’s food hampers help the community all around us, most of the students, as Niguma mentioned, have been fortunate and don’t rely on hampers and/or receive donations, making giving all the more important.

At Riverside, students have seen firsthand how the hampers help. In the community, there are many people who struggle, and donating is particularly important all year round, but especially at Christmas.