A Stettler County family is helping others, and in doing so showing the true spirit of Christmas.
Louis and Cammy Gendre, assisted by their kids Justin McCulloch, Timothy Herrell, Elizabeth Herrell, Jordan Herrell, and a volunteer, Morgan Brenner, put in “hundreds of hours” getting the annual light display set up on the family farm.
The farm, located southwest of Erskine, has been running the light display for several years in support of local families in need.
Access to the light display on the farm is by donation.
For 2021, thanks to the generosity of the community in supporting the lights, the Gendres were able to raise enough funds to assist seven Stettler-area families.
Each family supported received gifts for the children, a small gift for the parents, a turkey and all the trimmings for a Christmas meal, and some gift cards to help with the purchase of necessities.
“We’ve gotten some really neat surprises for these kids,” said Cammy Gendre.
In addition to financial donations, some people coming through to look at the lights have brought other items.
“Someone brought a turkey and the trimmings for the seventh family. John’s Men’s Wear provided potatoes, which topped up the hampers.”
The funds raised get roughly evenly divided between the families that the Gendres are helping, depending on the number of children in the family; if there are more children in a family in need they get more funds allocated for support.
The Gendre family learns of families to sponsor either through their church, through family members reaching out through the Gendre Farm Facebook page, or through Cammy’s volunteer work at the Superfluity Thrift Store.
According to Cammy, the Gendre family began sponsoring families due to the influence of her father, who was “big on charities.”
Cammy said her father, who passed away several years ago, was a Lions Club member, a volunteer firefighter, raised money for Multiple Sclerosis, and “raised lots of money for children’s charities.”
“Christmas was very special for him,” said Cammy.
“We try to do Christmas very big for him.”
The light displays in their collection come from a variety of places.
Some are purchased new, some purchased from Value Village and refurbished, and others are hand built.
While they already have one life-size gingerbread house on the property, the family plans to build another one in 2022 to store decorations.
“There’s just tons of stuff,” said Cammy.
“It just grows every year.”
In addition to the light displays, the family also provides baked goods which is available for purchase by pre-order.
The baking, consisting of standard Christmas fare such as After Eight chocolate cream-cheese cookies, shortbread, etc, usually sells out every year, and is sold at cost recovery plus “a bit” which goes towards supporting the families.
“We have some really good (baking) customers,” said Cammy, before recounting one morning where her and Louis stayed up until 7 a.m. getting trays ready for delivery for 8:30 a.m.
“Without the kids, we wouldn’t be able to do that.”
Though the Gendre family has wrapped their lights for the season, plans are already underway for the 2022 season.