Red Deer Christmas programs spread holiday cheer

Gifts and food donated to those in need

Few Central Albertans wear a Santa suit but many do a good job duplicating the jolly elf by donating gifts and food to local Christmas hamper programs.

This year sponsors came forward to help 202 single parent families with 427 children through the Adopt-A-Family program run by Central Alberta Women’s Outreach. Last year 213 families with 437 kids were assisted.

“I have over 200 sponsors so I’ve met over 200 Santa Clauses this year,” Darcy Ouellet, outreach fund development officer, on Wednesday.

“It’s been a successful program. We’ve got some amazing sponsors in Central Alberta. It’s heartwarming to see how people are willing to help out these families that just need a little bit of a boost at this time of year.

“They just need a break and maybe this is the thing that helps themselves get ready for the new year with less stress and anxiety about it.”

The outreach operates one of three community Christmas hamper programs that provide both food and gifts for families in need. The other organizations spreading Christmas cheer are Salvation Army and Red Deer Christmas Bureau.

“The intention is to help as many families as possible. That’s why we work so closely together,” Ouellet said.

On Wednesday people were lined up outside the Christmas Bureau to collect their Christmas food hampers. Volunteers were working in an assembly line were the boxes that will also be handed out on Thursday.

Teresa Kutynec, bureau executive director, said about 1,000 Christmas hampers are going out families with 1,201 children which is down from 1,100 hampers and 1,300 children last year.

She said maybe fewer people need hampers, but some may also have been caught off guard by the Dec. 14 cutoff to apply because the bureau is still getting hampers requests.

Toy donations were about equal to last year so some will be available for next Christmas, she said.

Next year the Christmas Bureau wants to move to a bigger building. After renting in the same location in north Red Deer for five years, the bureau would like to have its own permanent building.

“We just kind of outgrown this. It’s tight. We’re exploding out of our spot here,” Kutynec said.

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