Christmas charities ramping up campaigns

Work is underway to ensure that those in need have toys for their children and food for their families this Christmas.

Work is underway to ensure that those in need have toys for their children and food for their families this Christmas.

Teresa Kutynec, Red Deer Christmas Bureau president, said numbers are up slightly from the same time last year with 124 registrations so far.

Last year the bureau assisted 850 families and 946 children.

“We think there may be a bit of an increase this year just because of the economy. I think people are going to find it tough,” Kutynec said on Tuesday.

“I think we’re going to see more kids this year.”

People have until Dec. 17 to register and until Dec. 18 to choose toys. People from Red Deer, Penhold, Springbrook and Red Deer County are eligible to apply.

The bureau plans to give out 850 food hampers again this year that include traditional Christmas fixings worth about $100, along with a gift card for food.

Kutynec said volunteers are bracing themselves for the big rush when parents arrive at the bureau to choose toys, games, and books for their children.

“Our clients are so happy there is a service for them to help them because toys are so expensive. Stuff will be flying out.”

She expects Disney’s Olaf toys will be a favourite.

Parents can also get mitts, toques and scarves and holiday pyjamas.

The bureau discourages donations of gift cards even for teens, who are notoriously hard to please. That way, everyone has something to unwrap on Christmas morning.

Since last week, about 40 families have registered for Salvation Army’s Adopt-A-Family campaign that matches each donor with a family. Between 160 and 180 families are expect to sign up by the Dec. 12 deadline.

Deanna Scott, family services co-ordinator with the Salvation Army, said more sponsors are supplying grocery gift cards instead of buying food so families can choose what is suitable to their tastes, dietary restrictions and cultural preferences.

“Gift cards are almost the better option because you never know what they want to eat. Twenty years ago, it didn’t matter,” Scott said.

Mall gift cards for teens are also a safe present because they can buy exactly what they want, she said.

The Salvation Army suggests sponsors provide $100 in gifts for each child and $50 in food for each member of the family.

“Some people stick to it. Some people go way above and beyond,” Scott said.

This week, the Salvation Army’s Kettle Campaign kicks off at Bower Place on Thursday at noon near Santa’s workshop. Koinonia Christian School choral choir will be singing at 11:45 a.m.

Major Larry Bridger said last year the kettles raised over $190,000. The goal again this year is $200,000 to fund family service programs, including the new bed program, food and medication assistance, and the weekend backpack program that helps feed 146 children on Saturdays and Sundays during the school year.

Last year, Central Alberta Women’s Outreach’s Adopt-A-Family program helped 202 single-parent families and 416 children. The deadline to apply is Dec. 12.

Family Services of Central Alberta is working on 600 gift bags for seniors through its Gifts for Grandparents program.

For more information, call the Christmas Bureau at 403-347-2210, the Salvation Army at 403-346-2251, Central Alberta Women’s Outreach at 403-347-2480, and Family Services of Central Alberta at 403-343-6400.

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com