Although the Red Deer Christmas Bureau has been around for 50 years there’s still many people who don’t know it exists, a bureau official says.
Willy Bullock, one of the driving forces behind the bureau’s success and longevity, said Saturday the demand for its many services continues to grow.
“Many people don’t realize there is a Christmas bureau or what we do,” Bullock said at the bureau’s permanent headquarters in north Red Deer.
“As the city grows so does the demand on the bureau. Every year it goes up and up,” said Bullock who has been serving the bureau for 15 years.
This year’s birthday will be highlighted by an open house on Nov. 19 from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.
What first started by the charitable firemen from the Red Deer Fire Department has grown to include a wide range of services including coats for kids, cash cans, food hampers, Red Deer Rebels toque and mitt toss, stuff a bus, the toy depot, doll house, Red Deer Westerner bazaar and one of the recipients of the Red Deer RCMP Charity Checkstop.
Bullock said the firefighters started taking in toys and fixing them up but their project snowballed as the demand grew for not only toys but food and clothes.
The bureau is a non-profit organization that was set up to help children and families in need at Christmas, said Bullock who is director of the toy depot and volunteer co-ordinator.
The goal is to provide families with a full Christmas meal and for the parents to be able to give their children gifts of toys, Bullock said.
The board of directors are a group of volunteers.
“We are always looking for volunteers who are interested in making a difference in the lives of families and children in Red Deer and the Springbrook-Penhold area,” she added.
“I do it because it makes me feel needed and wanted. There are so many people out there who need help.”
The bureau is located at Bay 10 7429 49 Ave., in Red Deer.
Monday marks the beginning of accepting applications for assistance from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.
Families and individuals who have been accepted into the program can pick up their hampers starting the end of November.
The bureau, in addition to offering food and gift hampers, also provides families with Christmas trees and decorations.
For the first time this year the bureau is also offering expectant mothers baby hampers, which include handmade quilts, sheets and other baby products.
Last year the bureau handed out about 35 hampers a day.
It “barely” kept up, Bullock laughed.
“Everybody goes home happy. We get lots of hugs at the door. You know some of the mothers have tears in their eyes.”
Last year the bureau handed out toys to almost 1,200 children and had about 1,100 applications for hampers.
That number is expected to grow again this year, Bullock added.
For more information telephone 403-347-2210
— copyright Red Deer Advocate