Wawa Christmas Hamper – A Lesson In Humiliation

First, let me thank the organizers of the Christmas Hamper, they do a wonderful job of organizing and carrying out this event every year.
However, I have spoken to many people this year and most have voiced the same concern – they felt humiliated when they went to pick up their baskets.
I can understand the committee asking for identification, that is a part of the process, but many said they felt “judged” by the committee members and the questions asked felt “intrusive”.
I have also heard from former committee members that next year there will be a stipulation that only those receiving social assistance will be allowed to receive a basket.  My concern is this:  what about those of us who are considered the “working poor”?
Many of us, myself included, have jobs and are not on social assistance but after paying rent/mortgage, hydro, heat, insurance, there is little left for such luxuries as phone, cable, internet, food.  For more than 20 years I have made large donations to the local food bank and the Christmas Hamper but this year things got too hard to make the usual donations and I found myself in such a position that I swallowed my pride, and asked for a hamper.
The result?  Multiple questions and many suspicious looks and comments.
My suggestion to the organizing committee would be to recruit someone with empathy!  No one who asks for help does it because they enjoy it!  This is not what people want to be doing at this time of year, most want to be spreading cheer and helping others.  Personally I didn’t care about receiving gifts for the children, I wanted some food for my pantry to help get through the holiday season to feed my family and still pay my hydro bill!
I am not trying to cause an issue with this, it is a very good program and one that is appreciated by many.  I am just saying that for those of us who swallowed our pride and put our names in for a Christmas Hamper, we did it because we needed it. Not because we are too cheap to go buy our own (which is the feeling many were left with).
Don’t make us choose between feeding our families and having heat or hydro!
Editor’s Note – This letter was sent to me with the request to withhold the author’s name.
This Media Release


  1. I have had the good fortune to be able to make donations for Christmas hampers over the years, wherever I’ve lived. I have also had the good fortune of being a recipient many years ago, for which I was truly grateful. My belief is that the spirit of this holiday is about giving, and family, but it also places a burden on those who struggle. That is why we give. It does not matter to me if it goes to a family on social assistance, disability, or the working poor. This is not a time to belittle anyone or “judge” if they are “worthy.”

    There has to be a better, more compassionate, and consistent approach. Perhaps you could develop a kindness policy with input from the recipients that governs distribution each year.

  2. May we all be humbled by your truth spoken with such kindness and take to heart your advice given in the interests of those in need.

  3. We have all struggled at one time in our life. Their is no shame in asking for help. With that being said I had the opportunity to help with this years hampers and coming away from this experience my heart was full of pride at the generosity of this community but also a sadness of the growing amount of people struggling in this community. I was sad to hear that some people felt belittled or judged. Having to ask certain questions of people coming in can’t be easy for the committee members either. Watching these dedicated and passionate people volunteer hours and hours of their time to make this happen made me proud to live in this town. Maybe going forward people who felt the committee needs more empathy or anyone with an opinion should volunteer next year and have an input into how things can change so nobody feels that way again.