Judging by the turnout, this is one breakfast very few in Penticton wanted to skip.
The occasion was the 2018 edition of the South Okanagan United Way Drive-Thru Breakfast. Held in the parking lot of host facility Penticton Lakeside Resort, it was the seventh such annual breakfast, and by any measure it was a stunning success.
The lineup began promptly at the official 6:30 a.m. starting time, only growing larger as the morning wore on. Sixty minutes in, vehicles were a dozen deep in each direction on Lakeshore Drive, and perhaps twenty deep on Main Street. That’s not even counting the several dozen vehicles already being served.
Moreover, you didn't need to be in a vehicle to partake. Some merely walked through. Others came in their wheelchairs. And the staff of the Penticton Public Library showed up en masse - essentially a bus with legs instead of wheels.
This pattern would continue right to the end, which came a half hour earlier than scheduled at 9:00 a.m., when organizers just plain ran out of food and goodies.
The final tally was $21,000 - a total $5,000 greater than last year's and $1,000 higher than the pre-event goal.
Once inside the parking lot, drivers were outright pampered by rows of volunteers. A breakfast sandwich courtesy of the Lakeside Resort and served by Executive Chef Chris Remington, a Tim Hortons' coffee, a fully loaded breakfast bag, a window wash, and a chance to win one of several "grand prizes" - including a weekend in Vancouver from the BC Lions, Revelstoke lift passes, and a Summerland golf and wine package.
And plenty of smiles. This was one seriously upbeat group of volunteers, and the mood was clearly infectious.
Helen Jackman, Executive Director of the United Way of the Central and South Okanagan/Similkameen, was on hand and working as hard as anyone.
"It's our seventh year. An amazing event at the Lakeside Resort," she said during a quick break from the action. "I'm very pleased with the turnout. Beyond what you see here, the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) pre-ordered 140 bags, and we just had a cheque presentation for $2,800."
Jackman talked about the planning that went into the event for the weeks and months prior to liftoff, then keyed specifically on Wednesday night, when all 850 breakfast bags were packaged. "We did it in one of the Resort's conference rooms,” she said. "It was like a huge military exercise."
"The money raised today goes straight back into community... programs that support children with diverse abilities, people dealing with mental health issues and addiction problems, people with disabilities, seniors living in isolation."
London Drugs has been involved from the start, and today was Assistant Manager Karen Muir's third appearance. "The traffic has been great this year. The people have been incredibly kind. They keep trying to give us cash, and we keep having to send them down the line to the donation buckets," she said with a laugh.
Colin Powell, owner and manager of the Summerland and Penticton IGAs, said this is his fourth year. "We supply juice boxes, bananas, muffins, granola bars, that sort of thing."
"It's an opportunity for us to give back. And this year seems to be our strongest year."
Sandra Richardson, vice-principal at Penticton Secondary, brought sixteen students (all part of the school's "leadership" program) with her for the event.
"It's the first time we've been involved with United Way, and I'm super impressed with their organization," she said. The students alternately held signs and directed traffic, and helped wash windows and sometimes entire cars alongside members of the Summerland Steam Junior B hockey team.
"The kids have had an absolute blast helping out."
As did, it seems, everyone.