Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff                                Hunter Schneider and his brother Anthony Haultain, of Red Deer, hand over some toys and food donations to Michelle Landry at Parkland Mall Saturday afternoon. Through the weekend the annual Red Deer Food Bank Society Stuff-A-Bus campaign took up residence in the shopping centre to gather food, cash, and toy donations for the food bank and the Red Deer Christmas Bureau.

Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff Hunter Schneider and his brother Anthony Haultain, of Red Deer, hand over some toys and food donations to Michelle Landry at Parkland Mall Saturday afternoon. Through the weekend the annual Red Deer Food Bank Society Stuff-A-Bus campaign took up residence in the shopping centre to gather food, cash, and toy donations for the food bank and the Red Deer Christmas Bureau.

Red Deer Christmas charities seeing more two-parent families

More first-time applicants as well

Agencies in Red Deer are seeing more first-time applicants and two-parent families this year as December’s busy march to help those in need at Christmas continues.

Major Larry Bridger of the Salvation Army said Monday they are seeing a significant increase in the number of families applying for help for the first time, as well as two-parent families.

They have close to 155 applications for Christmas hampers so far, which includes a few seniors, but mostly families, involving about 300 children. Last year, they had 220 applications involving about 400 children, Bridger said.

“The economy has impacted more households this year.”

The Salvation Army is still in need of individual, group or business sponsors willing to adopt a family, in particular those interested in helping smaller families of single parents with one or two children.

Friday is the last day that people can apply for help from the Salvation Army. Hampers will be delivered on Dec. 16 with the aid of volunteer ATCO gas employees.

Bridger said the Christmas kettle fundraising program is well underway and runs until Dec. 23. The goal is $220,000, and as of last week, they were about $1,000 ahead of this time last year.

Over at the Red Deer Christmas Bureau, Teresa Kutynec said they have 870 applications involving 936 children so far. In 2015 overall, the Christmas Bureau received 1,237 applications, involving 1,345 children.

The bureau is hoping to raise $175,000 and they will have a good handle on how much has been raised next week.

They are also seeing an increase in the number of two-parent families this year, perhaps because people’s employment insurance benefits are running out, Kutynec said.

In 2015 the Christmas Bureau saw a steep increase of over 300 applications from 2014, and she believes that 2016 will be similar.

The deadline to apply for a hamper from the Christmas Bureau is Dec. 15. Hampers are picked up by clients on Dec. 20 and 21.

Kutynec said she understands how difficult it can be for families to ask for help, especially if they never have before.

“It’s not something that they want to do but people get to a point where they have to. … December is a long month when you are not working.”

The Christmas Bureau, Salvation Army and Women’s Outreach agencies all work closely together to ensure that there is no duplication.

barr@reddeeradvocate