It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the Cowichan Neighbourhood House Association in Chemainus.
While the building is only open three days a week during COVID, volunteers are constantly busy behind the scenes meeting all the necessary requirements to provide for the community before Christmas.
A couple of recent donations will go a long way toward supporting the association’s causes, with $5,000 from Western Forest Products and $2,500 from the Chemainus Rotary Club.
Cowichan Neighbourhood House is a volunteer-run resource and youth centre that provides educational and recreational activities for families, youth and individuals as well as resources to those in need.
“In a way, COVID has created more work and we have to spread it out now,” said Cowichan Neighbourhood House’s Chris Robinson.
In accepting the donation from Western, he told Somerville, “that gives us the confidence to say we’re ready, we can do everything.”
The number of visits to Neighbourhood House are actually down, but that’s mainly because one person now will commonly come to get food rather than an entire family.
More food was coming into the site on Willow Street through 49th Parallel Grocery and Loaves and Fishes.
“It’s great to see us being able to support these types of groups in these trying times,” said Kevin Somerville, operations manager at Western Forest Products’ Chemainus sawmill.
Western makes funds available to such organizations in the communities where its operations are located from Port McNeill to south of Duncan on the Island.
The Chemainus Rotary bottle drop-off on Chemainus Road every Saturday morning has proven to be a tremendous success so the club can in turn offer its support to Cowichan Neighbourhood House and so many other worthwhile projects.
And the labour involved in bottle collection to accumulate substantial amounts of money is not lost on Robinson.
“Hours, hours and hours upon hours at five cents a bottle,” conceded Robinson. “It’s like an amazing amount of work that goes into it.”
Rotary Club member Derek Hardacker expressed his gratitude to the community for helping to provide funds to support Starfish, through Nourish Cowichan, to feed hungry children in local schools as well as ongoing improvements at Kin Beach to create great spaces for residents and visitors, with future plans for picnic tables, a beach shower and boat ramp upgrades. Rotary also contributes to RASTA Sanctuary, CATastrophe, Chemainus Secondary School, Chemainus Crofton Community Schools Association, Soap For Hope and more.
Rotary has been doing the bottle drop-off every Saturday since May 2 and the program is continuing with the exception of Boxing Day, Dec. 26.
A total of $15,000 has been raised overall to date, including $700 just on Saturday, Dec. 5.
New kiosks are in the works for Waterwheel Park and Askew Creek.
“We also reach out to the Municipality to see what they’re doing and how we can help,” added Hardacker.
The big task is now well underway for Neighbourhood House of distributing gift and food hampers in the time leading up to Christmas. The first 38 gift and food hampers were going out Wednesday, Dec. 16.
The adopt-a-family campaign is also still going strong.
“I would say there’s probably more people adopting this year than last year,” said Robinson. “A lot of people are returning from last year and there’s new people.”
The big thing this year, added Arlene Robinson, is it’s going to be really hard winter for so many. “If our door wasn’t open, I don’t know what people would do,” she said.
Donations are always welcome, but “right at this point, it’s better if we just get money,” Robinson pointed out.
The target date for completing the hampers is Dec. 19.
“We don’t want anyone to not have a nice Christmas,” Robinson added. “We certainly won’t turn anyone down.”
Meanwhile, the lease at the building at 9806 Willow St. expires at the end of the month. Robinson has proposed looking into a new home or perhaps have the Municipality of North Cowichan purchase the building and lease it back to the organization.
“I’m still waiting to hear back from North Cowichan and how they’re going to help us,” she indicated.