Lots of help for everyone as Christmas approaches

If Christmas is all about giving, Red Deer social agencies are right in the spirit of the season.

This is the third year for Family Services of Central Alberta’s Gifts for Grandparents. Marketing Manager Valdene Callin says, “This program provides gifts for seniors who may be isolated or not have any family around during the holidays. Gifts are collected from the community by December 13 and wrapped and delivered during the week of December 14 – 17.

“All donations are gratefully accepted and if you know of a senior who could be helped in this way, please call 403-343-6400.”

Red Deer’s Loaves & Fishes, which feeds people three times a week all year in the City, is planning a special Christmas dinner for Dec. 17 at 5 p.m.

Spokesperson Sandy Spink says, “We’re expecting about 400 people, double our normal turnout, for a turkey dinner with all the fixings. There’s no charge, we just want people to bring their appetites and enjoy themselves. We would never let anybody go without at Christmas.”

There will also be music and entertainment for the Loaves & Fishes dinner at 6002 – 54 Ave. The organization also provides emergency food hampers for families over the holidays.

For 49 years the non-profit Red Deer Christmas Bureau has been providing families in the City and Penhold with Christmas meals and toys for children.

“We want to make sure everybody has a good Christmas,” says Willy Bullock, the bureau’s volunteer coordinator and toy depot director. “We endeavour to see that every child gets a toy for Christmas. We started accepting applications on the 15th of November and started toy shopping on November 29th. Christmas food hampers will be delivered starting December 22 and 23.”

The Christmas Bureau, which depends on donations for much of the food and toys it provides, had more than 1,100 applications for food hampers for families and single people, and for toys last year.

By Christmas Day it had provided toys to 1,156 children. Bullock, who’s been with the bureau for 14 years, expects those numbers to be up this year. Located at #10, 7429 – 49 Ave., the organization always accepts donations of toys and money, and it could use a few more volunteers. The Christmas Bureau got its start in 1961 when Red Deer fire halls started taking in and repairing toys.

The Salvation Army is always very busy at Christmas and is taking appointments for Adopt-A-Family until Dec. 10. Last year the program helped about 140 families with food and children’s presents, says Salvation Army family services coordinator Shawna Wilnechenko. Possible recipients need to phone ahead for an appointment to make an application for vouchers.

As always, the Salvation Army will be serving its traditional free Christmas Dinner on Dec. 25 from noon till 1 p.m.

Associated Cabs will be supplying rides for the dinner but people have to make their own arrangements with the company at 403-343-3300. The Salvation Army also provides food hampers to help people over the holiday season.