Nov 25 2010
Hamper of help
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.
â€œItâ€™s really all about Deltans helping other Deltans,â€ says Koka humbly as he gets ready to embark on another busy lead up to Christmas.
Koka, who is the programâ€™s chairman, came to Delta in the 1950s after his familyâ€™s farm in Chilliwack was flooded out.
â€œThe water was running over the dikes in Ladner and I said to my dad, â€˜Weâ€™re moving here? Look at the water.â€™ And he said, â€˜The tide goes out, son, twice a day.â€™â€
Moving Kokaâ€™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.
â€œIt was getting ridiculous, some houses were getting four or five boxes left outside their front doors,â€ 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.
â€œItâ€™s something I always do,â€ he says. â€œYou know, Iâ€™ve been involved with so many things and put a lot of time into stuff that why not this?â€
Part of that determination to serve comes from his battle with cancer that began in 1985.
Since then heâ€™s staved off the disease four times, including a bout this past year with prostate cancer.
â€œI look at myself and Iâ€™m a survivor,â€ he says. â€œSo, why not go help people who need help. Community service is what itâ€™s all about.â€
Koka says heâ€™s often been asked how long heâ€™s prepared to keep on going with the hamper program. He tells them, â€œAs long as my health is fine, Iâ€™m going to keep on doing it. Why not?â€
And while that is an impressive and commendable attitude, Koka says itâ€™s surpassed by the communityâ€™s capacity to care.
â€œItâ€™s Delta people caring about Delta people,â€ he says. â€œThatâ€™s what itâ€™s all about.â€
To donate to the hamper efforts, contact Deltassist at 604-594-3455 or visit www.deltassist.com.
© Copyright 2007 South Delta Leader