Warm hearts persist during frigid 18 Wheels of Christmas campaign

by Derek Clouthier

CALGARY, Alta. – Rolling across Western Canada again this year, 18 Wheels of Christmas has been collecting donations to help those in need this holiday season.

Colleen Nickel, right, organizer of 18 Wheels of Christmas in the Calgary area, and Derek Adams of Wild 95.3 collect donations at the Walden Save-on-Foods in Calgary Dec. 3.

What started in 2002 as an effort to bring together those in trucking industry, help fill food banks across the country and support communities in which they do business, 18 Wheels of Christmas has turned into a raving success, as organizer Colleen Nickel pointed out.

“Collectively, we have raised in excess of one million pounds of food for local food banks over the past 13 years,” Nickel said, adding that Rosenau Transport leads the campaign and has been the effort’s biggest supporter and sponsor.

Nickel said the campaign looks for non-perishable food items, as well as cash and check donations.

“With these donations, we will purchase the groceries, as the premise is to ‘help fill the trailer,’” Nickel explained.

A $1,000 donation will get the donor’s name decaled on the Christmas scroll which is then placed on a specially-wrapped trailer for a period of one year. There are currently five wrapped trailers representing Calgary, Edmonton, Medicine Hat, Saskatoon/Regina and a Northern Alberta/B.C. trailer that travels from Grande Prairie, Alta. to Fort St. John, B.C. Nickel said their northern trailer completed a toy drive Nov. 18 in Dawson Creek, B.C., which will head for Chetwynd, B.C., arriving Nov. 26, where it will be set up in the IGA parking lot.

This is the first year 18 Wheels of Christmas will visit Chetwynd.

With temperatures plummeting of late in the Calgary area, Nickel said there have been challenges this year with collecting and storing donated items.

But frigid weather hasn’t put a freeze on people’s generosity.

“We had to have the stores keep the donations inside, as the heater on the trailer would not be able to keep the temperature up,” Nickel said. “Even with all the cold, it certainly did not stop donations from pouring in.”

An event in Grande Prairie also took place Nov. 6 and Nov. 11, as well as in Saskatoon for the Santa Claus Parade Nov. 20 and an upcoming event in Edmonton.

“(We are) fully engaged this month and well into December,” said Nickel, with an event the Nov. 25-27 weekend in Calgary at Save-On-Foods on Seton Crescent, as well as Save-On-Foods locations in Calgary regions such as Walden Dec. 2-4, Heritage and Panorama Dec. 9-11 and multiple appearances at the Save-On-Foods in Calgary’s Lake Bonavista region every weekend until Dec. 11. As of Dec. 12, Nickel said the 2016 effort has been a success to say the least.

“It is with the generous hearts of Calgarians which has kept the dream alive to fill the food bank shelves,” she said. “Even in this economic downturn, Calgary has to be the most giving city in this country.”

The total amount of donations collected was yet to be determined in mid-December, but Nickel was confident that the 53” trailer would be packed long and high when all was said and done.

The campaign, 18 Wheels of Christmas, is not a registered charity, but rather provides a means for donations to reach food banks in various

Organizers say 100% of all cash and check donations goes to the food bank in the community where the donation originated, and is also used to purchase essential items for food banks.

Nickel said they have all the volunteers they need for 2016, but are always looking for more for upcoming years.

Those wanting to volunteer or donate to the campaign can e-mail Nickel at 18wheels.xmas@rosenau.ca.

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