Maj. Larry Bridger with the Salvation Army accepted $4,450 in gift cards from Central Alberta Co-op on Tuesday. Money was raised through staff Christmas parties and at Central Alberta Co-op stores. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff) Maj. Larry Bridger with the Salvation Army accepted $4,450 in Co-op gift cards from Central Alberta Co-op on Tuesday. Cards will be used in the Adopt A Family program. Money was raised through proceeds from the company’s annual Christmas party and donations made by team members at all the Central Alberta Co-op locations. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)

Funding down for Red Deer Christmas charities

Food hampers and toys for children going out to those in need

Christmas charity programs have received fewer cash donations than usual, and the holiday is just around the corner.

Teresa Kutynec, president of the Red Deer Christmas Bureau, said those dollars, which help pay for hamper food and the bureau’s rent and utilities, are down by about $20,000.

“Toy-wise we’re really good. It’s been awesome. A lot of people are shopping instead of donating cash,” Kutynec said.

The bureau will be open until 4 p.m. on Thursday to accept toys for next year and cash.

About 1,020 children will receive toys from the bureau, the same as last year, but requests for food hampers were down. About 900 hampers will be available for pick up on Wednesday and Thursday, compared to about 1,000 last year. 

Kutynec said some families were either getting help from the Red Deer Food Bank, or they just wanted dry goods instead of meat.

Barb Barber, executive director of Central Alberta Women’s Outreach, said its adopt-a-family program also received fewer cash donations, likely due to the economic situation.

She had a call from a fellow who has helped out for years, but couldn’t this year because he lost his job.

“We did put out a plea last week, because we were short 20 sponsors. We had people step up, so all our families did get adopted out and that was very much appreciated.”

This year, sponsors are helping 192 single-parent families, including 321 children. Last year, there were 202 families. The drop was due to an earlier cut off for applications because of fewer sponsors, Barber said.

Maj. Larry Bridger, with the Red Deer Salvation Army, said as of the middle of last week, the Christmas Kettle campaign and walk-in donations were down about $33,000 compared to the same time last year.

The goal of the kettle campaign, which runs until Saturday, is $240,000 to fund the Salvation Army’s programs and services, including its food bank, school meal program, clothing, hot meals, summer camps and seniors’ programs.

Sponsorship for its adopt-a-family initiative was also lagging, so the Salvation Army had to spend more money on families in the program.

“It’s just the way it is. People are hurting, especially in the oil field. It was starting to recover, but then they cut production, which means the companies need to lay off people because they’re not producing as much oil. That kind of trickles down and impacts everyone,” Bridger said.

A total of 199 families and 46 seniors are participating in the adopt-a-family program. Last year, there were 197 families and 32 seniors, so more seniors are needing help, Bridger said.

Kutynec said to give families a little more assistance this year, the bureau provided three new books to each child. It also started the Linus Program to give blankets to kids age seven to nine.

“If it goes well, maybe next year, we’ll be able to provide blankets for more age groups.”

A bicycle and lock program is another program the bureau is thinking about developing for next year, she said.

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