At LITE (Local Investment Toward Employment), it’s been 20 years of giving the gift that keeps on giving.
LITE (Local Investment Toward Employment) was created in 1994 around its annual Alternative Christmas Hamper campaign.
LITE executive director Anne Lindsey said the organization, and the hamper program, had their genesis when it was noticed local grocer Neechi Foods Co-op (325 Dufferin Ave.) was being negatively affected during the holiday season. As Christmas hampers began to be distributed, sales dropped at the store.
"What they were noticing, though, is that in December, with the disbursement of all the Christmas hampers, their sales were actually going down," Lindsey said. "Most businesses have increased sales in December and use that to support the rest of the year, so they were faced with maybe needing to lay people off. It was really unfortunate that this really important charitable gesture (the hampers) was actually having an unforeseen effect, which would be worse in the long term for the people losing their jobs."
With the Alternative Christmas Hamper campaign, LITE uses people’s donations to buy products from inner-city businesses, and then gives those products to the Christmas Cheer Board and other Winnipeg hamper programs, thus doubling the program’s impact.
"Our big push is for economic development of the local inner-city community, to keep money circulating in the downtown core area, and also, most importantly, to encourage jobs and job opportunities for people who live in less-advantaged areas," Lindsey said.
In addition to Neechi, LITE purchases products for its hampers from the Spence Neighbourhood Association’s Youth Crew, the Native Women’s Transition Centre and the Food Connections Project at Wolseley Family Place.
"It’s mainly women who are getting trained on kitchen protocol and food handling," Lindsey said of the latter two social enterprises. "They bake cookies and stuff, which we purchase for the hampers. These are not long, sustainable jobs, but they provide important skills, which they can then add to their resume to help them find work."
LITE offers five different Alternative Christmas Hamper packages, each aimed at families of two to three or four to five. The dry goods package is $40 to $60. The canned goods package is $35 to $45. The Christmas dinner package is $20 to $25. A Christmas baking package is $15 and a full Christmas Hamper is $95 to $130.
To give to the Alternative Christmas Hamper campaign, download and print off a donation form at http://lite.mb.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/LITE_Hamper_brochure_web.pdf
Donations can be mailed to LITE at 203-675 Main Street, Winnipeg, MB, R2W 3N5.
For more information, call LITE at (204) 942-8578.