Calgary woman donates Thanksgiving hampers in memory of her grandmother


Brianna Kelly is providing 120 Thanksgiving meals for families in need this October. It costs $50 to fill each hamper with ham, pineapple, carrots, potatoes, gravy, a pie, and dinner buns. She started helping others in 2017 after her grandmother Olive Mawhinney died.  

Kelly didn’t know about her grandmother’s legacy until she passed.

“She actually donated to the woman shelter in Prince George British Columbia for probably over 30 years,” said Kelly. “Even in her later years when she was losing her memory to Alzheimer’s, she insisted that she was driven down to the woman’s shelter personally so she could give them her cheque and say this has to be used for a Christmas party for the women who attend the shelter.”

The shelter named one of its programs ‘Olive’s Branch’ in her memory. Now Kelly’s Thanksgiving project is called Olive Boxes to continue the gift of giving.

In Olive Boxes first year Kelly put together four hampers. In 2018 and 2019 she grew by four hampers each year. But word in her community started to spread and along with social media postings in 2020 the project grew to 101 hampers.

“And she was really shocked,” said friend and volunteer Nancy Hoeght. “And probably a little bit terrified but it was a massive success and of course, so many people from the community came out to volunteer to help, you know, from packing the boxes to delivering the boxes.”

Nik Thierry was one of the first volunteers in 2018 to donate and help put the hampers together. Kelly worked as a nanny for his two daughters and has remained family friends. He’s watched Olive Boxes grow and helps where he can.

“Helping out just building boxes, sticking labels on and then once we get the food we’ll be putting that in the boxes and shipping it all out,” said Thierry. “Grunt work really but it’s the only way to get it out to people.”

Kelly says she starts planning for Thanksgiving in August. She isn’t a charity but puts the word out about Olive Boxes on a number of social media groups to finds families in need. She has 243 requests for hampers this Thanksgiving and only 120 to hand out. She says it’s a difficult process for her to choose who to give to, but in the end it’s rewarding to know she’s making a difference.

“Honestly you know I get a lot of people saying we’re so proud of you, but I do it for me,” said Kelly. “You know it fills me up and fills my bucket for the whole entire year, I say giving is the most selfish act that you could do because really what you’re doing fills you, and it fills your heart absolutely.”

Learn more about Olive Boxes here:

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