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Food bank, church ready to feed hungry at Christmas
There’s absolutely no reason that anyone who lives in Osoyoos should have to go without a wonderful Christmas dinner, says Pastor Phil Johnson.
Not only will Osoyoos Baptist Church once again be hosting a Christmas dinner – where everyone from the community is invited – but the Osoyoos Food Bank will also be preparing to feed roughly 120 local families with its Christmas Hamper program, said Johnson.
“We appreciate the constant support from the community,” said Johnson, who has been the pastor at Osoyoos Baptist Church for just over 10 years since moving here from Lavington, located just east of Vernon early in the new millennium. “The annual Christmas drive in Osoyoos has been amazing from the day I arrived here more than 10 years ago.
“Christmas can be a very lonely time of the year for a lot of people, but we try and make sure everyone in this community can enjoy a good Christmas dinner through our hamper program and our annual Christmas dinner.”
Pastor Terry Jarosch, who is the man primarily responsible for establishing the Christmas food drive for the Osoyoos Food Bank and the memory of all he accomplished in this community is still felt more than a decade after his death, said Johnson.
“Pastor Terry paved the way for what we’re doing now,” he said. “He used to run the food bank from outside the church because it wasn’t part of the ministry of this church and no income tax receipts were issued for those making donations or anything like that.
“Unfortunately, Terry was diagnosed with a brain tumour in December of 2002, he was hospitalized in March of 2003 and passed away over the May long weekend.
“When I arrived, I wanted to keep up the good work he had started and we made the Osoyoos Food Bank an official ministry of this church and we’ve been going at it ever since. The community has been very supportive and generous with our food bank from the day I arrived.”
The support for the food bank never wavers in this community and he expects continued support now that another Christmas food drive is underway, said Johnson.
“Every year it becomes a little more expensive to run this place, but the community always comes through and we always manage to have enough to help the people we need to help,” he said.
The Christmas hampers being prepared this year will once again feature everything a family would need to enjoy a healthy and nutritious Christmas dinner, said Johnson.
“We have fruit, chocolates, biscuits, vegetables, stuffing, potatoes, pie filling and a turkey or ham,” he said.
Those wishing to apply for a Christmas hamper are being asked to submit their request at the Osoyoos Baptist Church before noon on Tuesday, Dec. 17.
“We need people to call us because we don’t deliver and they’re going to have to come and pick up the hampers,” he said.
Johnson and a small group of volunteers who belong to Osoyoos Baptist Church manage the food bank, but there’s not enough room at the church, so it operates out of the Cactus Centre, located near Osoyoos Elementary School.
The annual Christmas dinner will be held Christmas day at Osoyoos Baptist Church.
There is usually a crowd of between 100 and 150 people who attend and everyone is welcome, said Johnson.
“This will be our 11th annual Christmas dinner and we don’t want anyone to have to spend Christmas alone,” he said. “We invite people who are on their own or snowbirds who don’t have a lot of family in this area to come out.
“This isn’t about making a dinner for the less fortunate, but about community. We have many families that have been a part of this community for many years and they come out to spend Christmas dinner with use because there’s such a wonderful spirit involved in this event.”
Both local grocery stores – Buy-Low and Family Foods – have been extremely generous in providing a lot of the food that is served at the Christmas dinner, said Johnson.
The evening also includes participants singing Christmas carols and he personally recites the story of Jesus and his birth more than 2,000 years ago, said Johnson.
Johnson said the volunteers from the church who donate their time to preparing the Christmas hampers and dinner do an amazing job and deserve a lot of credit for ensuring everyone in this community can enjoy a merry Christmas.
Local residents who want to sign up to receive a Christmas hamper are asked to contact the Osoyoos Baptist Church at 250-495-6581 during office hours, which is Monday to Friday between 9 a.m. and noon.