Charities gain a breather in requests for aid

Requests for Christmas hampers from people in need declined slightly this season in Central Alberta.

Requests for Christmas hampers from people in need declined slightly this season in Central Alberta.

Both the Salvation Army and the Christmas Bureau had a drop in applications from families and individuals requesting hampers.

This year, the Christmas Bureau, which serves Red Deer and Red Deer County, received 1,055 applications from families and individuals, down from 1,094 in 2010.

This year, the bureau provided toys to 1,065 children, compared to 1,189 last year.

“We’re all kind of scratching our head wondering how come? Hopefully people are getting jobs, a sign that the economy is improving,” Gerri Tiller, assistant director of the toy depot with the bureau, said on Tuesday.

Salvation Army runs an Adopt A Family program for families in the City of Red Deer. It is helping 181 families this year, compared to 187 families in 2010.

The number of children who benefited from the Salvation Army hamper program this year was unavailable. Last year, 375 children were served.

Major Larry Bridger of the Salvation Army said at least 200 applications were expected after an initial rush of requests.

At one point, the number of families exceeded sponsors, but several new sponsors joined the program, he said.

“I’ve heard that Red Deer is a very generous city. It’s been proven to be true,” Bridger said.

Central Alberta Women’s Outreach also runs an Adopt A Family program specifically for single-parent families in Central Alberta.

This year, 170 families with 380 children received hampers. Last year, 163 families with 356 children got hampers.

“People’s willingness to share the spirit of Christmas with families they don’t know is just incredible and we see the hope that it provides on the other end,” said Barb Barber, outreach executive director.

This year, a new Red Deer Food Bank program is providing food for a complete Christmas dinner to food bank clients who are not getting food hampers from other community organizations. So far, about 118 individuals or families have signed up.

Food bank executive director Fred Scaife said for 2011 he expects the food bank will have seen an eight to 10 per cent overall drop in demand compared to 2010.

He said more people are getting back to work. But there are many who still need a little help. Instead of requiring a food hamper, they use the food bank’s walk-in program to supplement their meals.

“There is this huge segment out there who are just about making it. What they come to us for is bread or potatoes and stuff like that.”

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

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