From left, Red Deer Food Bank Volunteer John Bittorf, Volunteer Co-ordinator with the Red Deer Food Bank Society Sheila Wetherelt, Event Co-ordinator with the Red Deer Christmas Bureau Teresa Patterson and Food Bank Executive Director Fred Scaife pose for a photo Thursday morning after the launch of Stuff-a-Bus at Parkland Mall. Robin Grant/Red Deer Express

Red Deer Christmas Bureau, Food Bank launch holiday campaigns

Plenty of charities around town could use donations

The Red Deer Christmas Bureau is busy at it again this holiday season raising money for families in need.

The volunteer non-profit organization supports children and families at Christmas by providing financial resources so that they can have a good Christmas.

So far this year, Teresa Patterson, event co-ordinator with the Red Deer Christmas Bureau, said it has received 305 applications for assistance. Last year, it helped more than 1,200 families.

“The way we are set up is that parents can come in and do the shopping themselves so they get that pride in picking out their own toys for their kids,” she said. “We also provide mitts and toques for all the kids and either Hot Wheels, a doll, stocking stuffers are included.”

More items could include puzzles, a stuffed animal or a family game.

The Red Deer Christmas Bureau is also one of the few in the province with a full library with books to choose from.

Families who would like to make use of the Bureau’s services must be residents of Red Deer, Red Deer County, Penhold or Springbrook. To apply, the appropriate identification is required, including a one-month bank statement, pay stubs, income support cards, AISH cards and health care cards. Applications are being accepted until Dec. 14th.

“You run into people who just lost a job, or they are lower income, they are working and not making money,” Patterson said. “That happens a lot. Or single moms or if you got divorced this year, Christmas is a little harder. So it’s across the board. Christmas gets very expensive very quickly for a lot of families. Christmas is something that we want all Canadians to share and have a great holiday.”

She said teenagers are one of the harder groups to provide for.

“We’ve never had to turn anyone away because of a lack of gifts but we do find it is a lower amount,” she said. “We do always suggest grooming kits, hair accessories. For the boys, if you can get game sets or anything of that nature – sporting goods, bikes, skates.”

Patterson said the Bureau doesn’t just provide toys for children. It also runs the Christmas Hamper program, which provides food for families at Christmas, such as all the fixings for a turkey dinner as well as gifts for parents.

“We’re really trying to let everyone know there is more than just toys for kids,” she said.

Some of the public outreach the Bureau does includes Stuff-a-Bus at Parkland Mall which launched Nov. 29th, the Charity Checkstop and the Red Deer Rebels Toque Toss which takes place Dec. 1st at the Centrium while the Rebels play the Moose Jaw Warriors.

The organization is 100 per cent volunteer-run with an annual operating budget of $150,000. Since 2002, the Bureau has helped 13,800 families.

The Red Deer Food Bank Society also kicked off its holiday fundraising campaign Nov. 29th at Parkland Mall in partnership with the Red Deer Christmas Bureau.

The Food Bank is asking the public for cash and food donations.

“Our wish list is dried pasta, soup, canned meats, peanut butter and kids’ snacks,” said Sheila Wetherelt, volunteer co-ordinator with the Food Bank. “We always want cash. We get eight dollars to your one dollar. We can make your dollar spread a lot further than if you were to go to the store and buy food.”

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