A Christmas Tradition of Giving

At this time of the year, the Christmas pressure comes from all around us. Whether it’s trying to find that perfect gift or deciding how far we are going to crank up the credit cards. For an ever increasing number of people it’s just being able to keep the lights and heat on, and perhaps a nice meal.

John and Teresa Deak and Christina Van Soest with the generous food donations collected in Vernon BC during the 34th Annual Realtors Food Drive December 7, 2011.

When the call came out for volunteers for the annual OMREB Realtor’s Food Drive, my wife Teresa and I signed up immediately.

I made one call to my friend Christina Van Soest, and without hesitation, she was in, too.

Between the three of us, we were going to become a formidable food gathering machine in Vernon! And we were.

Christina drove the truck as Teresa and I ran from house to house picking up the amazing donations of food left on the doorsteps. Block after block, we found all sorts of donations left out for us to collect. Small bags with one or two items, large boxes filled until they were heavy, houses that needed two of us to pack the food back to the rapidly filling truck.

As we were about halfway down one block, we could smell a delicious BBQ wafting through the neighbourhood. Teresa approached the home to find a nice man tending to the BBQ and the bag of food waiting for her. He said he had a story that his wife really wanted him to tell. “it will only take a minute.”

Some 60 years ago, as a young child, she emigrated to Canada with her family and they found themselves living in the middle of nowhere Saskatchewan. They moved into an old farmhouse, had nothing, and didn’t know a soul.

But somebody must have known about the family and cared enough to do something about it.

Just before Christmas, members of the Salvation Army showed up to this lonely farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. They brought a turkey with all of the trimmings for Christmas dinner. And to the child’s amazement, they even brought a gift for her!

That little girl never forgot her first Christmas in Canada, and the people who cared. Every year she has made a point to give back to her community.

As he was telling the story, his voice would crack a little and he would pause for a second or two, before continuing on. It was obvious that what was done for his wife and her family some sixty years earlier had left a lasting unforgettable impression of what a community, and Canada are capable of.

Teresa came back to the truck with the bags of food and told us the story, with tears in her own eyes…and to be honest it was tough for me to not well up, too. No doubt there are many stories out there like this, just waiting to be told.

Do you have a story to tell? What motivates you to make a difference?

I am immensely proud of everyone who donated to the food bank, and to the organizers and volunteers for this event. We were able to collect 20 tones of food, which eclipsed last year’s Realtor Food Drive donation record of 19 tons. Another record year! We couldn’t have done it without you….you…..this wonderful community!

We are a gathering of wonderful people, here in Vernon. Thank you to you all and have a very Merry Christmas.


  1. Jeff Gingerich on December 11, 2011 at 8:27 am

    Thanks for sharing a wonderful story John. Merry Christmas to you and Teresa and hope you have a terrific 2012!

  2. georgina haldane on December 18, 2011 at 11:10 am

    I need help from all realers. I’m looking for something to run a doggy daycare out off.It has to be in zone c11 or I1 the city just pass that for daycares.It need to have a business in it or had one in it.Some were for for the dogs to run and play. Get in out of the rain and show Can put up tents. Fully fenced or can be fenced.In the city so its easy for people to drop their dogs off on their way to work. Rent or buy put I need to live there as well.Under 250.Thats the hard part.If you have anything or know of anything please let me know Big thanks for your time.Georgie