EDMONTON -- A school gym in northeast Edmonton was transformed into an assembly line Thursday night as volunteers packed 1,300 food hampers for Edmontonians in need.

The effort of roughly 60 volunteers is part of the massive annual mission of the Christmas Bureau of Edmonton to help 45,000 people with hampers and meal vouchers during the holidays.

“There’s still lots of people out there that need the help,” said Peter Ratcliff with the Christmas Bureau.

Ratcliff said most people are now opting for the vouchers, but he believes the hampers, packed with ham, potatoes, candy and other food items, is a better value for recipients.

“(We help) anybody in Edmonton that needs a hand-out at Christmas time, a festive meal. We don’t discriminate as far as religion or anything like that. If you qualify, you get a hamper,” Ratcliff said.

According to Ratcliff, demand is about the same as most years.

  Volunteers will deliver the hampers across the city Saturday morning.  

Bob Hanscom, a retired senior, was helping Thursday with his Santa hat on. He and his wife have been volunteering with the Christmas Bureau for 19 years.

“We really enjoy it,” Hanscom said. “The ones that don’t have as much as we have, they get a turkey, and they get a ham and all the other goodies. It’s good for the kids. They get a lot of candies.”

Thursday night’s assembly line included nine-year-old Serenity Desgagne, who was in charge of filling the hampers with tins full of cookies.

“I see a lot of people on the streets. And when I see that, it’s just sad,” Desgagne said. “It feels good to help people in need.”

Ratcliff said the Christmas Bureau could not function without its volunteers.

“They come from all parts of Edmonton and all walks of life, and some of them (have been) donors in the past and some have been recipients in the past,” Ratcliff said.

The Christmas Bureau is still accepting volunteers and donations. More information about getting involved is available online.