It’s possible fewer families will need help from charities to make Christmas merry this year.
About 160 families applied to Red Deer Salvation Army’s adopt a family program compared to 187 last year.
“Our numbers started out with a bang. We figured we were going to be swamped and we’re actually are down,” said Red Deer Salvation Army Major Larry Bridger.
“I’m hoping it’s a sign that things are maybe better for a lot of families. At this point, it’s hard to say. We had people who made appointments to come in and register and cancelled or just haven’t shown up.”
The deadline to apply to the program was Friday.
Teresa Kutynec, Christmas Bureau president, said 940 families and individuals applied to the bureau as of Friday afternoon.
Last year the bureau received 1,055 applications and she expected the number to reach about 1,000 by Monday, the last day to apply.
She said there may be a rush on Monday, but it would be nice if more people were better off and fewer people were in need at Christmas.
“Unfortunately we see a lot of the same people every year,” Kutynec said.
“There are people who are so grateful because they can’t provide for their families. It’s difficult for children who are in school and asking for these things and they can’t provide.”
In addition to a food hamper from the bureau, parents get to choose from a selection of gifts donated by the community.
“We find this is an easier way of doing it. We have it set up like a mini Walmart. They come in and choose the toys for their children.
“I think the parents kind of like to pick for their own children.”
Both the Salvation Army and Central Alberta Women’s Outreach run adopt a family programs. Individuals, families, groups, and businesses sponsor families to provide toys and gift cards for food.
The deadline to apply to the outreach program was also Friday. Open to single-parent families, 150 families applied to the program with about a dozen more expected before the end of the day.
Last year 167 families applied.
Darcy Ouellet, fund development officer with women’s outreach, said adopt a family alleviates stress and financial burden at Christmas.
“If they’re living pay cheque to pay cheque, and you add that extra cost in, something’s going to suffer,” Ouellet said.
The outreach is still looking for a few more sponsors to assist families.
Salvation Army had 128 sponsors this year, compared to 111 last year. Some of the money donated to the annual kettle campaign will be used to assist families without sponsors.