COMMUNITY SUPPORT- Stacey Davey tapes up a box of gifts as volunteers help sort out the haul of toys that Red Deerians donated to the local Christmas Bureau over the weekend.

Agencies benefit from community generosity

Help still needed to boost United Way campaign and Salvation Army

The holiday season was looking bleak for a number of local agencies but thanks to a few fundraisers recently, Christmas will be much brighter for many.

The Red Deer community stepped up to the plate this past weekend, helping a number of organizations who weren’t confident they would make it through the holiday season.

A week or two ago, the Red Deer Christmas Bureau was wondering how they would supply toys to all the families in need.

“I was getting scared,” said Willy Bullock, director of the Toy Depot and volunteer coordinator for the Red Deer Christmas Bureau. “The first two weekends we had the toy boxes out we didn’t get one single thing put in, so it was scary.”

Now, after a number of fundraisers including Stuff a Bus at Parkland Mall, more than $40,000 in cash was raised that will be split between the Christmas Bureau and the Red Deer Food Bank. Loads of toys were also brought in as a result of the event.

Other fundraisers including the City’s Toys for Tickets as well as the RCMP’s Charity Checkstop also helped to ease the stress.

“This past weekend was our Christmas,” said Bullock. “Red Deer is so generous.”

Although the Christmas Bureau is in better shape than they were going into last weekend, Bullock said they are still in need of specific toys for children.

“We are always looking for hockey sticks, smaller puzzles with pieces up to 100 and gifts for teenagers,” she said.

Demand has also been higher for the organization which last year provided gifts for 1,156 children and food hampers for 1,076 households. This need has again increased this year, said Bullock.

“The need has not quite doubled this year,” she said. “We are getting a lot of out of province people that are making Central Alberta their destination of choice.”

The Red Deer Christmas Bureau takes donations up until Dec. 21.

As for the Food Bank, they sit in good shape as the Stuff a Bus fundraiser brought in 3,000 lbs. of food and the Westerner Christmas Bazaar garnered another 3,000 lbs.

The RCMP Charity Checkstop also raised about 500 lbs. of food donations.

Meanwhile, there is still a level of need surfacing across the City.

Applications for the Salvation Army’s Adopt-a-Family program will be accepted until Dec. 10 at 4 p.m.

Individuals, families or other groups are invited to ‘adopt-a-family’ by providing goods and items for Christmas hampers. There is still a demand for sponsors to come forward and help to match the need, said Shawna Wilnechenko, family services coordinator at the Salvation Army in Red Deer.

As of early this week, 165 families had signed up, she said.

That number could reach 200 by the end of the week. Last year, about 135 had signed up for the program, she said. “One hundred and forty-five is the most we’ve ever done.”

Another organization looking for more support this season is the United way, which as of earlier this month had reached 58% of its $2 million fundraising goal.

With just a few weeks left in the campaign, organizers are encouraging the community to help out.

“This year is unlike any other we’ve seen,” said Lars Rogers, volunteer campaign chair. “We set out to raise $2 million, but the community is really telling us the need is much, much larger.”

Funds raised are invested early in 2011 to support people addressing a variety of concerns including managing mental health disorders, teaching youth how to be safe from bullying, violence and sexual assault, helping individuals get off addictive substances and providing access to adequate housing.

“Truly, the United Way campaign is the people’s response to helping one another, right here at home. I know that people care passionately about the

health and safety of their community and because there is still such a great need, I know in my heart that people will respond.”

For more information about contributing to the Salvation Army’s Adopt-a-Family campaign, call 403-346-2251. To help with the United Way’s campaign, call 403-343-3900.

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