Whistlerites asked to think of others 

Whistlerites are being asked to dig deep in their pockets or give a little time to help support local fund-raising initiatives in the lead-up to Christmas.

Schools, charities and local social groups are among those appealing to peoples’ generosity during the festive – or for some – the famine season.

Whistler Community Services Society is expanding its social services and needs more volunteers and donations to meet the expected increase in demand. Gifts of money as well as non-perishable foods for the pink food bank bins are the main items being sought. All donations will go towards the Santa’s Helper Christmas Fund or the existing food bank, community kitchens and home visiting services.

The Lil’wat Christmas Bureau is also asking for donations of food, new toys, money or new raffle items to help meet a predicted call for 130 hampers among Mount Currie families. Co-ordinator Rachel Andrew says 800 of the 1,400 people living on the Mount Currie Reserve are under the age of 25. She says adults there are unable to meet all the needs of young people and children, especially with the local unemployment rate at 75 per cent, although this is improving.

"A few months ago the number of people out of work was nearer 85 per cent but people have been taking up training opportunities, such as through the locally run Feast House culinary arts school," she said. "The new transit system linking Mount Currie with Pemberton and Whistler will also help reduce unemployment."

Andrew says families can apply for a Christmas hamper and the packs are distributed according to perceived need and donor generosity. Typical donors tend to be from the Mount Currie and Whistler areas, she said. The drop-off places are at Whistler’s Great Games and Toys and in the Mount Currie Band Office or Health Centre.

Scouts selling trees

The 1 st Whistler Scout Group hopes to net some $5,000 out of its annual Christmas tree fund-raiser which kicks off tomorrow (Dec. 2).

Chair Bob Calladine says last year thieves nearly ruined the event by stealing almost one-third of the 300 trees the scouts had purchased from the Pemberton Lions Club. But he says a safe place has been found to store the trees overnight, for when they are not being marketed outside Nesters and Home Hardware.

"Between 10 and 20 trees a year are usually unaccounted for because we operate on an honesty system when sellers are not present," he explained. "We don’t begrudge a few going missing because some people are hard-up in Whistler, but when they take 80 they are obviously looking to resell."

Calladine says the Scouts’ long term goal is to secure their own supply of Christmas trees by reviving two tree farms at Squamish and one at Rutherford Creek, near Pemberton.

"We have been given the license to farm these 100 acre blocks from B.C. Hydro, but right now the trees there are pretty crummy because the management has lapsed."

He says the Scouts and Beavers have already started clearing one of the sites and replanting levels will depend on Arbor Day tree donations, for example.

"It is a great opportunity to get these farms up and running again and let the boys learn about silvaculture and tree management techniques."

Stumpage will eventually be paid to B.C. Hydro once harvesting begins.

Another Scout fund-raiser is the bulk sale of Christmas trees to the Festival of Lights organizers, Calladine added.

Creative fairs

Creativity will be the cornerstone of the Christmas fairs being held separately by Whistler’s two independently-run schools – the Waldorf-style Alta Lake School and the Montessori School.

The Alta Lake fair kicks off at 11 a.m. Dec. 2 at the Westin Resort and Spa, while the Montessori events runs from 10 a.m. on Dec. 16 at the Catholic Church.

Anyone, particularly artists under the age of 12, is being urged to participate in the Montessori fund-raiser by bringing along self-made or re-usable Christmas items and gifts. Tables will be available for rent for $20, with 20 per cent of sales going to the school’s non profit fund.

A Montessori school parent, Mechthild Facundo, says some of the school’s 45 pupils will perform winter and Advent activities such as nativity scenes or sing Christmas carols. Two real donkeys will also be in attendance to help boost the festive season spirit, she added.

Alta Lake School parent Michelle Kirkegaard says their event is more an interactive craft fair for children aged four to 10 than a fund-raiser.

"It will be a hands-on opportunity for kids to try candle-making, create table centerpieces and visit magical cookie-land, as well as raise public awareness about what we do at the school."

The Alta Lake School is currently trying to boost its roll to 10 in order to quality for provincial funding. Fair organisers will ask for a $10 donation per person to cover the costs of the materials, she added.

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