CALGARY, Alta. – Across Alberta the giving spirit of the Christmas season helped make 2006 the most successful 18 Wheels of Christmas campaign to date.
In its fourth year, the Calgary-based food drive collected the most food and money donations in its short tenure, ending up with more than 100,000 lbs of food.
“The food banks of Alberta certainly benefited from this year’s campaign,” said Colleen Nickel, one of the campaign’s coordinators. “Whether it is due to the economy or that 18 Wheels is becoming more visible, we don’t know, but whatever has happened we are most excited about the response from the industry, suppliers and individual donors.”
All money donations gathered by the 18 Wheels campaign, were used to purchase case-lots of groceries and baby food for distribution throughout the province.
The food drive kicked off in Calgary on Oct. 1 with the goal of keeping kitchen cupboards filled with food for the holiday season. A specially-decaled, 48-foot trailer from Rosenau Transport travelled throughout the province collecting donations, which were then distributed back into the communities where they were donated.
Established in 2003, the 18 Wheels of Christmas campaign was conceived by Dale Hart, co-manager of the Rosenau Transport Calgary Terminal. Following the conclusion of the holiday campaign, the trailer goes back into regular service with the names of the donors decaled to the side of the trailer, to keep the campaign visible year-round.
“Our list of donors is ever increasing, 24 trucking companies and 24 support industry. We have numerous new names to decal on the trailer and of course the contributors that have been with us from the start such as Big Horn Transport, Bess Tank Lines, J&G Carriers and Style-Craft Printing,” noted Nickel. “Wayne, our man that does the decaling, will be very busy putting names on and getting the trailer ready for general service.”
The trailer itself was kept busy during the campaign on its way to distributing its largest haul of donations.
Heading into the 2006 campaign, the program’s organizers were eager to beat their previous top results of 45,000 lbs of food and $75,000 worth of donations, which came in 2005.
Several public events were staged throughout the food drive to generate public interest and help 18 Wheels reach its donation goals.
In Calgary, the 18 Wheels trailer made its annual appearance outside the Lake Bonavista Promenade on Nov. 25; and also made an appearance outside the Douglas Square Sobey’s during the afternoon of Dec. 2.
In Lloydminster, the 18 Wheels campaign usually benefits from Show ‘n’ Shines put on at a local mall during the trailer’s appearance. This year however, the 18 Wheels campaign teamed up with local radio station, 106.1 The Goat.
“This was the first year we have been involved with The Goat’s Christmas Convoy,” said Nickel. “This proved to be a very favourable partnership, the communities where the convoy travelled benefited greatly from the four-day excursion.”
As a result of the partnership, 18 Wheels was able to more than double its total donated in the area from the previous year, reaching more than $32,000 in money and groceries.
Back in Calgary again, the 18 Wheels campaign made a stop at the December Food Bank Blitz at the CBC Radio/Television building on Dec. 20.
The nearly overfull trailer helped put the annual blitz beyond its goal of raising $600,000.
Another new aspect of the 2006 edition of the 18 Wheels campaign was the addition of a blog on the Internet.
“This year we thought we would like to have a Web site, but because we are non-profit and any little extras we require we are constantly asking Rosenau Transport to help us out, it was decided to try the blog,” explained Nickel. “We think it is great as it tracks what we are doing, tells people what we are about. We hope to continue with it and as we get more savvy with adding to it hopefully it too will grow.”
Nickel and the rest of the campaign’s organizers and volunteers are hoping the campaign continues to grow next year as well.
“We are looking forward to next year’s campaign with the expectation we will get larger, maybe even attract a sponsor to help with some of the cost and even more donors,” said Nickel. “Our volunteer base is pretty much Rosenau employees and without our men in the shop, Rosenau drivers, the ladies in our offices and the fellows in the warehouse we could not have completed this year on such a high note.”