Hamilton, who has been instrumental in getting more than 520 businesses on board with the food drive, is retiring after 22 years with Vale. He is moving to Elliot Lake, which means the wrap-up of the 2013 campaign marked his final involvement with a food drive that has become one of the largest of its kind across the country.
Hamilton joined the Sudbury Food Bank campaign four years ago. He was asked by the United Steelworkers and several board members to become involved, and the rest is history.
“I thought I'd be doing this part time, maybe a couple nights a week,” he said. “Then I found out this was an 11-week endeavour, picking up where Edgar left off. He left a lot of good notes, and everyone just took me in like I was part of the crew.”
His main job was to “pound the pavement” and visit local businesses.
“We are now at the point where it has now grown to 524 businesses,” he said. “That's phenomenal. Any given business can have anywhere from three to 30 to 300 to 3,000 employees, and it's those people who are giving two or three cans or more to this campaign.”
His first year with the campaign brought in about 65 tons, most of which was accomplished by Burton before he died on July 9, 2010. This year, the campaign total is teetering around the 100-ton mark.
“It looks like we'll be bursting at the seams again, and that's because the people of Sudbury are givers,” he said. “It's tremendously heartwarming.”
Leaving the campaign will be a major transition, almost as much as leaving work, he said.
“The only way I can describe it is like it's changing jobs. You look forward to the next job, but you're a little apprehensive as to what you're leaving behind. I'm leaving something behind that has been a big part of my life, something that takes up a big place in my heart.”
Edgar's wife, Sharon Burton, was also feeling a lot of emotions. As she is with every campaign wrap-up, she was overwhelmed with Sudbury's generosity.
“I can't believe how people never forget Edgar,” she said. “This campaign is growing and growing, and we're putting food on the shelves for four months out of the year. It's a great community, and it takes the entire community to make this a success.
“Edgar came from needing the food bank when he was a child, so he knew what it was all about. That's what drove him to do what he did, and it's that passion that inspired everyone here to get on board.”
Local schools also played a major role in the success of this year's campaign. A total of 24 schools participated in the Kids Helping Kids campaign.
Dave Farrow, principal at Churchill Public School, part of Rainbow District School Board, said students across the board collect 64,000 food items for the campaign, which includes $4,600 in cash.
“Edgar was an incredibly motivating man, and he made me believe in the power of one — that one person can make a difference in our community.”
That is a lesson that is not lost on the students with Rainbow District School Board, he said.
“The Kids Helping Kids campaign is an excellent example of how we build those character traits in our students.”
Now, it will take an army to collect the 100 tons of food. Luckily, the 2nd Battalion Irish Regiment has again answered the call and will be busy collecting the food donations at the many businesses and schools.
The Edgar Burton Christmas Food Drive has collected more than 850 tons of food since its inception 26 years ago.