CheckStops gather for charity

Central Albertans dug deep into their wallets on Saturday to support two Charity CheckStops held in Innisfail and Sylvan Lake.

Volunteer firefighter Jeff Moulton

Volunteer firefighter Jeff Moulton

Central Albertans dug deep into their wallets on Saturday to support two Charity CheckStops held in Innisfail and Sylvan Lake.

The events looked like a standard police checkstop, but instead of checking for car’s registration and seatbelts, RCMP officers and other volunteers raised money for local charities.

In Innisfail, a crowd of around 30 people — made up volunteers from the Innisfail Fire Department, Innisfail Baptist Church, Women’s Outreach, Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Innisfail, Innisfail Food Bank, Innisfail RCMP, Innisfail Victim’s Services and the Town of Innisfail — were dressed in reindeer antlers and elf ears. People were greeted by Christmas music and Santa as they dropped by the Innisfail Charity Checkstop, along the town’s main street.

Const. Rick Buisseret, with the Innisfail RCMP, said early in the afternoon they had already collected 300 pounds more food than the previous year.

He expected they would be well over in the cash they collected in 2009, when they raised $8,200.

Final tallies for the Charity Checkstop over the weekend are expected to be released today.

“The weather is playing a big part in the people coming out, wanting to help and wanting to donate,” Buisseret said.

Temperatures were at around minus 16 C and volunteers were wearing heavy Sorel-style winter boots on Saturday, but Buisseret said in 2009 they faced minus 35 C with the windchill.

Buisseret said the cash raised on Saturday will be split among the Innisfail Christmas Bureau, the Innisfail Food Bank, Women’s Outreach and Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Innisfail, with the food going to the food bank and the toys and clothes donated going to the Innisfail Christmas Bureau.

Buisseret said it went really well on Saturday, with most people happy to give. “This is our 15th year doing this so it is kind of an Innisfail tradition now,” Buisseret said. “So people aren’t really surprised.”

Things were also bustling at the Sylvan Lake Charity Checkstop.

Jennifer Plotnikoff, with Sylvan Lake Victim Services, was among around 20 volunteers — which included Sylvan Lake Fire Department, Sylvan Lake EMTs, Sylvan Lake Victim Services and the Sylvan Lake RCMP — in Sylvan Lake on Saturday.

“It looks like we well exceeded last year,” said Plotnikoff, who hoped to have a final tally by today. “It was pretty good. It wasn’t as cold as it has been in the last few years.”

The items collected in Sylvan Lake will be distributed among the Sylvan Lake Christmas Bureau, the Sylvan Lake Food Bank, the Bentley Christian Centre Christmas Fund and the Eckville Santa’s Anonymous. She said people can also still drop off items to the Sylvan Lake RCMP office this week.

She said people were incredibly generous with most putting $20 to $25 in the bucket, with others donating hundreds of dollars. She said even teenagers were emptying their car ashtrays full of change into the bucket. She was impressed with how generous the community of Sylvan Lake was again this year.

“We get the odd bah humbug, but the majority of the people give and it has been really overwhelming,” Plotnikoff said.