With one week until the deadline for applications, the Red Deer Christmas Bureau has already seen a surge in the number of children they will help this holiday season.
“We are extremely busy – we have lots of clients,” said Teresa Kutynec, president at the Red Deer Christmas Bureau. “We could be close to serving 1,200 children this year.”
Last year, the Red Deer Christmas Bureau provided toys for 966 children. This year’s application deadline is Dec. 16th at 4 p.m.
“Because oil is down and there was such an uncertainty with who was going to be running our country and our province I think everyone took a step back and wanted to take a little breather before we knew what was going on. Unfortunately if people are not working, they are not spending money. It is a total ripple effect and we get a bit of the brunt of it because we have so many new clients coming through the doors – they don’t know where to turn to.
“It is heartbreaking to see that people have to ask for help. We are a pretty proud province and it’s hard for people to ask for a little bit of assistance to get through the rough times.”
Two weekends ago the annual Stuff A Bus fundraiser was held where $55,000 was raised for both the Christmas Bureau and the Red Deer Food Bank. That money was split in half between the two agencies. As well numerous toys were donated at the event. Just last weekend the RCMP held their annual Charity Checkstop where more donations were received, but more are still needed.
“We’re not getting the daily donations from the malls in the drop boxes. The drop boxes are really low,” said Kutynec.
She added the Christmas Bureau is in need of toys for both boys and girls aged 10-16.
“We need everything from craft kits to hair straighteners and perfume to Axe spray and skateboards. Anything that that age group would like is what we are lacking,” said Kutynec. “If people want to donate cash, that’s great, but it’s better for us if they shop and donate. It helps us alleviate that one step.”
Kutynec encourages those bringing in toys for donations to also bring in their receipts as tax deductible receipts can be given as well.
In terms of the assistance program at the Red Deer Christmas Bureau, parents are able to come and choose some toys for their children and the Bureau also provides other items as well.
“We also provide a lot of extra items like puzzles, games, toques, mitts, pajamas, stocking stuffers and things like that.”
In addition to the assistance of toys families are also given a card to come back to the Bureau on Dec. 21st or 22nd and pick up a Christmas hamper which includes a turkey, potatoes, milk, cereal, pancake mix, syrup, spaghetti and spaghetti sauce, fresh vegetables, canned vegetables, some fruit and Jell-O, among others.
“It has a couple of days’ worth of food in it,” said Kutynec. “The Christmas hampers are taken out of our budget. We do not take donations of food because we are not set up for that.
“Cash donations are nice in that it helps pay for our hamper program.”
Last year, the Christmas Bureau handed out 946 hampers and Kutynec anticipates that number to rise this year.
“At this rate, for sure we’ll be probably close to 1,100 hampers.”
The Red Deer Christmas Bureau has also given out 75 Christmas trees this year to families in need. Kutynec said donations are currently being accepted of gently used Christmas trees, ornaments and Christmas decorations for next year.
“We would love that if people had those donations.”
Kutynec pointed to the importance of donating to the Red Deer Christmas Bureau.
“There is probably one person on every street in Red Deer that will step foot in here. If you are donating to us, you are donating to your neighbour, your community,” she said. “We are 100 per cent volunteer-based – we do not have any paid employees here, so all the funds raised go back to the community. It’s helping out right here and you can see it. We do this for the kids and making sure they have a Christmas.”
Meanwhile, in its 54th year, the Red Deer Christmas Bureau has helped 11,453 families and individuals since 2002 (which is the earliest date that numbers have been recorded). The agency has also given away 10,659 Christmas hampers and toys to 11,669 children since 2002.
For more information visit at www.reddeerchristmasbureau.cfsites.org or call 403-347-2210. Cash donations can be given at the Christmas Bureau’s headquarters or online at www.canadahelps.org. Donations can also be made on the Bureau’s GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com, under ‘Christmas Bureau Needs Help’.
The Christmas Bureau is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday. They are located at 15, 7428-49th Ave.