For many, the weekend before Christmas is filled with last minute shopping and wrapping gifts, but nothing will quite get you into the holiday spirit like spending time with the 'Christmas Crew' in Cape Breton.

Glace Bay High School looks more like Santa’s workshop than it does a school this weekend.

While the students have left for break, dozens of volunteers are busy packing groceries and toys for families in need this Christmas.

“Unfortunately it’s not getting any smaller,” says John White of the Christmas Crew. “We’re putting out 200 grocery orders, but we’ve adopted 49 families for toys as well. The need is pretty heavy.”

They call themselves ‘The Christmas Crew’. The initiative was started by John White and his wife seven years ago.

At the beginning they would pick up a few groceries and drop them off to a family that could use the help this time of year. But since then, the tradition has grown, and been adopted by the larger community.

“It’s the start of the Christmas season for us,” says volunteer Debbie MacIsaac. “It’s very humbling when you’re rushing around and you’re trying to get everything bought, everything wrapped, for Christmas. We come together for those less fortunate and you realize not everybody has the blessings that we have.”

The Glace Bay Food Bank connects them anonymously with families in need- no names, just a list of addresses. The goal is to get in and out as quickly as possible, so nobody feels uncomfortable.

“It’s bedlam,” says Debbie MacIsaac. “It’s true bedlam until you see all the grocery orders packed. It’s just emotional, an emotional day for so many reasons.

The need is certainly greater in Cape Breton this year, as more than 600 ServiCom employees suddenly lost their jobs more than two weeks ago.

While there’s now hope that they’ll get those jobs back, some of those workers have gone weeks without a pay cheque.

The crews have been giving the gift of food for seven years, and recently started providing toys for families as well.

“I feel the groceries are providing hope for families,” says John White. “As a parent you want to make sure you have food on the table, but with the toys we’re showing kids there is quite possibly a Santa Claus. We’re showing them there is people in the community that care and you’re making Christmas for these kids. It’s emotional.”

An initiative of giving back that is inspiring hope, and providing an opportunity to make the holidays a little merrier for some Maritime families.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kyle Moore.