More people needing help while fewer have money to share is putting local charities into a tight spot for their annual Christmas funding and gift drives.
The Salvation Army, Christmas Bureau and other groups are ramping up for the Christmas season with a number of events planned this weekend.
Already, the Salvation Army’s annual kettle drive is down by $4,700 from this time last year, says family services co-ordinator Shawna Wilnechenko. In 2008, kettle volunteers had collected $31,400 at this point in the campaign, she said on Tuesday.
There are fewer volunteers to help out this year, so that means there are fewer kettles around the city. People are also offering less money than they did when the economy was stronger, said Wilnechenko.
“So we are in great need,” she said.
Willy Bullock, executive director of the Christmas Bureau, said her group already has 100 more applications than it did last year, when 750 families received hampers and gifts were provided to 918 children.
In some aspects, the Christmas Bureau — which works closely with the Red Deer Food Bank — is in good shape. There are all kinds of stuffed toys left over, in particular because of the phenomenal success last year of the Toys for Tickets program offered by the City of Red Deer.
People who had parking tickets were invited to bring in toys for the Christmas Bureau rather than pay their penalties in cash.
The storage shelves are now well stuffed with stuffed toys, said Bullock.
But the Christmas Bureau is still short in a couple of areas, she said. It needs more mitts and tuques and it needs more gifts for teenagers.
Stephanie Phillips, program co-ordinator for Blackfalds Neighbourhood Place, said her group has applications from 25 families that have asked for help, but has found only 10 sponsors so far.
A number of ongoing programs and upcoming events have been set up to help fill the needs expressed by various charitable groups.
The Christmas Bureau and food bank are among the charities that will receive support from the RCMP’s annual Charity Check Stop, to be set up on Taylor Drive, immediately north of 32nd Street, on Saturday.
People are invited to bring tuques and mitts for the annual Rebels Tuque Toss, to be held during the home game against the Saskatoon Blades on Saturday.
Stuff-A-Bus, which collects gifts, food and cash for the Christmas Bureau and food bank, will be set up from Thursday through Saturday at the Parkland Mall.
Toys for Tickets is operating again at City Hall on Thursday and Friday.
Salvation Army kettles are set up at a variety of shopping centres throughout the city, including both Wal-Marts, both Canadian Tire stores, Superstore, Save-on Foods, Deer Park Co-op, Bower Place Shopping Centre Sears and Zellers locations and Scott’s Parables. Store locations operate from 11 am. to 9 p.m. until Dec. 23.
Kettle volunteers will also attend the Rebels game on Saturday and the Costco store on Saturday and Sunday and again on Dec. 11 and 12.