With another Christmas season and another year come to pass, Teresa Kutynec, president of the Red Deer Christmas Bureau, reflected on how the year went.
Kutynec detailed how the Christmas Bureau was responsible for the distribution of 930 food hampers this holiday season, which is down 20 from last year.
“I’m not sure why the numbers are down but I think part of it was the cold weather and people not being able to make it down to the Bureau,” said Kutynec.
“I think part of it was also some of the other programs who started distributing hampers as well — for example the Word of Life Centre did 100 families this year.”
The Red Deer Christmas Bureau is a non-profit, volunteer-based organization that was set up 52 years ago to help children and families in need at Christmas.
Their goal is to provide families with a full Christmas meal and for the parents to be able to give their children the gift of toys.
Kutynec explained that those 930 food hampers were distributed to their “Clients who came in and applied” through providing their ID and Alberta Health Care Cards.
The Bureau partnered with many organizations last year to ensure everyone had a smile and a full stomach this past Christmas, including the Canadian Mental Health Association and Catholic Social Services. “Everything went rather smoothly this year,” she said.
“People came in to get their hampers and shopped for their families and then we had a number of singles come in and get theirs as well.”
One of the Bureau’s biggest events this year was the highly successful Toys for Tickets program, in which Red Deerians had the opportunity to pay for parking tickets with toys instead of cash.
“Red Deerians were very generous this year and we are very pleased with the donations and the quality of donations,” said Kutynec.
“People were spending way more for the gift than the ticket was worth and we got an incredible amount of toys to distribute this year.
“People were also buying big toys like remote control cars, puzzles, MP3 players, stuffed animals and hockey sticks — we are just so impressed with the support that Red Deer has shown us again this year.”
More than 600 toys were donated to the Bureau through the program, which ran from Nov. 1st to Dec. 2nd.
“We couldn’t expect any more than that and I am very happy that we are in this community and that people have the hearts to be so generous,” she said.
Kutynec explained that when people come in to apply they must meet a certain criteria, which factors in income as well as number of children.
If they are accepted, they are then able to shop for their children directly off of the shelves at the Bureau free of charge.
“We like to call ourselves the ‘Mini Wal-Mart’ because they can come in and pick out what they think their kids would like,” explained Kutynec.
The Bureau was bustling with volunteers just days before Christmas, and to those volunteers Kutynec wished to extend the warmest of thank yous.
“We were a little short on volunteers at the beginning of the year, but we always have great turn-outs on the hamper stuffing days because we did 475 in one day and 455 the next day,” she said.
“We always need lots of big strong men because each hamper weighs about 25-30 pounds and we even have volunteers give people rides home if they can’t carry their hampers home.”
Kutynec said that all of the volunteers find the work to be “Very rewarding even though it is a bit of hard work, because people are always so appreciative of the work they do.”