It’s a miracle that happens every single year.
Thousands of people in Red Deer and surrounding area will enjoy gifts and food again this Christmas thanks to the kindness of strangers and a lot of volunteers.
This year, 4,435 people will get a helping hand from the combined charitable work of several local Christmas charities, Red Deer Christmas Bureau president Teresa Kutynek said Monday.
But it’s been a challenging year as donations of both toys and cash were down from last year but the need continues to be strong for the second year in a row.
“We manage. We get through. Maybe next year people will be working and donate more,” said a hopeful Kutynek, who said she is starting to see more people slowly getting back to work.
The Christmas Bureau won’t know it’s final cash donations amount until mid-January as there are still donations coming in but she expects to be close to their goal of $175,000 this year.
“We’re pretty happy, considering,” she said.
The Red Deer Christmas Bureau keeps track of all the people who apply for help not only from the bureau but also from four other organizations — Red Deer Salvation Army, Women’s Outreach, Sylvan Lake Christmas Bureau, and Home Church (formerly Word of Life Church), which provides 100 hampers.
The groups are diligent about tracking applications to ensure that those who apply receive the help they need but also that there are no duplications. If a family receives help from one agency, they cannot get another hamper elsewhere.
Kutynek said the Christmas Bureau itself received 1,226 applications and will have provided 1,100 hampers this year. A total of 1,340 children are involved, which is on par with last year.
The numbers, similar to 2015, represent a steep increase in need since 2014, attributed to the downturn in the Alberta economy. In 2015 the bureau had 1,237 applications, involving 1,345 children — a jump of over 300 applications from the previous year.
People will be picking up their hampers this week.