Nov 25 2010
Hamper of help

 
 
Philip Raphael photo

Ladner's George Koka has been helping organize and deliver hampers to needy Delta families for just over 30 years and says it's job he looks forward to each Christmas season.

By Philip Raphael
If you start doing the math with George Koka, the numbers quickly start to get out of hand.
What he is trying to count is the number of people the annual Christmas hampers distributed by Deltassist help each holiday season.
At last tally, the effort provides close to 600 families with food for the holidays making it one of, if not the largest, hamper program in the country.
And
Koka has been there, helping out for the past 35 years, which is another staggering figure.
“It’s really all about Deltans helping other Deltans,” says
Koka humbly as he gets ready to embark on another busy lead up to Christmas.
Koka, who is the program’s chairman, came to Delta in the 1950s after his family’s farm in Chilliwack was flooded out.
“The water was running over the dikes in Ladner and I said to my dad, ‘We’re moving here? Look at the water.’ And he said, ‘The tide goes out, son, twice a day.’”
Moving
Koka’s family to a 60-acre dairy farm property in Ladner took a couple of years, but the benefits he brought along through his volunteer work with the hamper program have spanned several decades and touched countless lives.
His association with the hampers began with membership in the Ladner Legion, one of several local service groups which had focused their charitable efforts at Christmas on helping needy families.
The trouble was, the dozen or so groups were working independently and often several hampers would end up at the same homes.
“It was getting ridiculous, some houses were getting four or five boxes left outside their front doors,”
Koka says.
Coordinating efforts by Deltassist helped iron out the overlaps, and 30-plus years later the operation to fill the boxes with food takes on militaristic precision.
Koka says his motivation to keep on going with the holiday efforts is summed up simply.
“It’s something I always do,” he says. “You know, I’ve been involved with so many things and put a lot of time into stuff that why not this?”
Part of that determination to serve comes from his battle with cancer that began in 1985.
Since then he’s staved off the disease four times, including a bout this past year with prostate cancer.
“I look at myself and I’m a survivor,” he says. “So, why not go help people who need help. Community service is what it’s all about.”
Koka says he’s often been asked how long he’s prepared to keep on going with the hamper program. He tells them, “As long as my health is fine, I’m going to keep on doing it. Why not?”
And while that is an impressive and commendable attitude,
Koka says it’s surpassed by the community’s capacity to care.
“It’s Delta people caring about Delta people,” he says. “That’s what it’s all about.”
To donate to the hamper efforts, contact Deltassist at 604-594-3455 or visit www.deltassist.com.


© Copyright 2007 South Delta Leader