Trucking Christmas campaign delivered in a big way

CALGARY — ‘Twas the season of giving and the 18 Wheels of Christmas campaign was able to deliver in a big way.

In 2009, the Alberta-based food drive launched its seventh campaign. A specially decorated 53-ft trailer makes its rounds to a number of communities and after collecting donations, delivers the haul to local food banks in time to put food on the tables of families in need during the holiday season.

“We did fabulously well this year,” says Colleen Nickel, co-organizer of the 18 Wheels of Christmas campaign.

All the communities combined to bring in more than 100,000 lbs of food. The donations however, don’t get lumped in together. The food collected in each community, stays right where it was collected.

This past holiday season marked the first year communities outside of Alberta got involved in the campaign and Nickel was impressed with their first time results.

“We were excited and happy to see Saskatoon come on board with this,” she says. “They went all out and put the tractor-trailer in the city’s Santa Claus parade.”

The attention of the trailer was able to bring in 7,100 lbs of food, which calculates roughly to $6,600 worth of groceries.

The Town of Sparwood, B.C. also held an inaugural 18 Wheels of Christmas food drive and raised nearly as much money as there are people in the town.

“They did so well, and raised $3,350 to turn over to the local food bank,” notes Nickel. “They set up for two days in a grocery store parking lot and it was so cold that people just brought them a cheque or cash, instead of donating groceries.”

Back in Alberta, 18 Wheels once again teamed up with the Christmas Convoy hosted by radio station The Goat in Lloyminster, which straddles the Alberta/Saskatchewan border. The event allowed partial trailer loads of food to be dropped off to four communities in the surrounding area.

A quick stop in Okotoks, just south of Calgary, raised $400 and a skid of food for the community’s food bank. A one-day stop in Millet, a little south of Edmonton, collected similar results with $600 worth of food for the local food bank.

In Edmonton, 18 Wheels teamed up with two radio stations to get the word out. K-97 morning show host Terry Evans lived in the trailer for three days in minus-30 weather. The stunt led to filling the 53-ft trailer in just three days and also raised an additional $21,990 worth of cash donations. Another radio station CISN, teamed up with 18 Wheels to host events at a grocery store in the province’s capital city and collected another 18,000 lbs of food.

In Calgary, 18 Wheels pulled in 24,000 lbs of food and $6,800 of receiptable donations. As well, the Calgary event delivered a skid of toiletries to the Women in Need Society, and delivered 10 frozen turkeys to two different community food hampers.

In 2008, 18 Wheels collected about 154,000 pounds of food between Alberta’s two largest cities, while Lloydminster brought in another $25,000 worth of food.

Although the amount of donations was down slightly in 2009, Nickel was still overwhelmed by the generosity of the transportation community.

“Even in these tough economic conditions, many of our regular contributors still donated something. And others who said they couldn’t told us not to count them out for next year,” says Nickel. “With more terminals coming on board it will be exciting to work with our colleagues and exchange ideas to help us grow.”

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