The holiday season is a time of happiness, joy and giving. However, some members of our community can also find themselves facing challenges in this supposed season of cheer. Loss of a family member, job and income loss, and the stress of the pandemic all impact how people are feeling around the holidays.
With the hardships that Strathcona County residents may be facing this year, the Strathcona County Christmas Bureau is needed now more than ever.
Gayle McCarthy, a board member with the Strathcona County Christmas Bureau, says, “We gave out 500 hampers of gift cards this year. Compared to previous years, this is by far the largest number of hampers that have been given out in Strathcona County.”
Q: What does the Christmas Bureau do in Strathcona County?
Gayle: Our mission statement is, “Bringing the spirit of Christmas to the vulnerable residents of Strathcona County.” We have been operating in the community since 1979. We provide hampers filled with food and gifts for residents who wouldn’t necessarily be able to afford Christmas on their own.
Q: Can you tell me a bit about your volunteer base?
Gayle: We have such an amazing group of volunteers. In a typical year, we rely on volunteers to sort, pack and deliver hampers. However, with COVID-19, we have moved to a gift card model. Our board is also completely volunteer, and they work hard throughout the year, gathering donations and promoting the program.
Q: What is one thing you want people to know about the Strathcona County Christmas Bureau?
Gayle: People make assumptions about what poverty may look like in a community and often think it is related to housing. However, it could be someone who has recently been laid off from their job, someone behind on their bills, or someone struggling with a personal situation. There is often more to their situation than meets the eye.
Q: How can people get involved with the Strathcona County Christmas Bureau?
Gayle: We are always looking for donations and volunteers. People can visit our website to get involved and donate.
If you or someone you know may be struggling this holiday season, please call Family and Community Services at 780-464-4044 for support.