Tracey Reed

Charities hard at work in Christmas season

With only 10 days left until Christmas, local charities are in the homestretch of their busiest season of the year.

With only 10 days left until Christmas, local charities are in the homestretch of their busiest season of the year.

The Salvation Army has been hard at work at the kettles and getting the adopt-a-family program going; the Christmas Bureau has wrapped up its charity checkstops and is still hard at work at its toy and food hampers and the Red Deer and District Food has been hard at work on the Bank Stuff-a-Bus, Canadian Pacific Holiday Train and putting on the Tom Jackson and the Huron Carole.

Last week the Christmas Bureau had 778 families come through and expected to surpass their anticipated 850 families for toys and a food hamper. Families with kids get the two, while couples get the food hamper.

Applications to receive food and toys continue until Dec. 17. They are delivered on Dec. 22 and 23 this year.

“Checkstops are down from last year, but it was extremely cold this year,” said Teresa Kutynec, Red Deer Christmas Bureau president, adding they raised about $15,000 this year, down from about $24,000 from last year.

“There was lots going on that weekend, it was -26 C. There were lots of factors.”

One of those other fundraisers running that weekend was the Stuff-a-Bus campaign at Parkland Mall. In total it raised $12,000 for each of the Christmas Bureau and the food bank.

Fred Scaife, Red Deer and District Food Bank executive director, said the holiday train raised about $1,300 from food and drink sales at the concert and Canadian Pacific donated $7,000 to the local food bank. On top of the cash the food bank received about 1,600 pounds of food.

The problem for the food bank so far this Christmas has been the lack of cash donations.

Typically they rely on this time of year to get most of their funding for the next year.

“At this point in December we should just about have our next year’s submitted budget paid for already,” said Scaife.

“The reality is it’s not the big stuff that brings in the bulk of our money. It’s the continued string of people walking through the front door with a cheque in their hands this time of year that brings in the $300,000-$400,000. It’s that continuous string that’s been intermittent instead.”

The 2015 budget is about $550,000, which just covers the cost of keeping the lights on, the food bank heated and the operation running. So far this year they have about $100,000.

Still in need of volunteers for the adopt-a-family program, the Salvation Army expects to have up to 180 families in need. Major Larry Bridger, said they need about 40 sponsors to match up with the families.

“We ask for $100 per child for toys and about $50 per person for food usually gift cards for a grocery store,” said Bridger. “We supplement it with gifts and things we have available. Families we don’t have sponsors for, we look after them through our funds.”

The kettle campaign only has a few days left, but they are well on their way to reaching their goal of $200,000. As of last week they had raised about $120,000 and the campaign will continue until Dec. 23.

On Christmas Day, the Salvation Army puts on its Christmas dinner as they have for many years. Dinner will be served from 12 to 1:30 p.m. at the church, 4837 54th St. Bridger said they expect to serve about 250 people this year.

“We haven’t run out of food yet.”

Over the weekend, Abacus Datagraphics put on their annual Christmas Dinner at the Gaetz Memorial United Church. Joanne Fleming Ruholl, dinner co-ordinator, had about 20 turkeys and about 18 hams ready for people. Last year they had 500 people come out and about 200 to-go containers handed out. They expected similar numbers this year.

mcrawford@bprda.wpengine.com

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