The timing seems perfect. The mercury has dipped, we've had our first snowfall (yuk!) of the season and Santa made his way down Portage Avenue last weekend.
Time to embrace the spirit of giving.
For more years than anyone can remember the Spirit of Christmas fund here at the Winnipeg Free Press has launched its annual fundraising campaign in support of the Cheer Board in November.
Last season was my first at the helm after taking over for retired sports editor Julian Rachey. We recently had a gathering for JR and a number of people spoke about his dedication to the campaign and the cheer board effort. Thanks again boss. I have big shoes to fill.
In my initial effort, I counted on the guidance of Mr. Rachey and Cheer Board head-honcho Kai Madsen to guide me through the process of soliciting our readers for donations. Tug at their hearts, tell them it's for a good cause, appeal to their sense of community, I was advised.
As it turns out the folks of this great city required very little prodding. A gentle weekly reminder seemed to do the trick. Thanks for your support last year, and we of course appreciate the support you will once again give us this season.
In the words of Madsen, in his 41st year of helping out at the Cheer Board: 'Nothing amazes me anymore about the generosity of the people in this city... I admire everyone that pitches in to help. They have compassion and interest in their community. That's what it's all about.' Right on.
To kick off this year's campaign, I again called Kai to get the scoop.
Here's the deal: The Cheer Board team is all back together again. After a year of splitting its operation between a warehouse on the Red River Ex grounds and an office in the West End, the gang is now all gathered at the old SIR warehouse at the corner of Ellice and Empress.
The Cheer Board distributed 19,088 hampers last Christmas and estimates it will provide 19,500 this year. The hamper packing operation these days is done by volunteer students who come in as groups and put together 300-400 hampers in a morning. That effort gets underway on Thursday.
"We've got a lot of work ahead of us," Madsen said. "But, I have faith in our people. They are great."
The Cheer Board has spent $900,000 on toys and groceries, accounting for about 40 per cent of what will be needed to fill the hampers. It will rely on donations to fill out the remaining 60 per cent.
The Cheer Board accepts donations of cash, toys and non-perishable foods. There are a number of different drop-off sites. For more information check out its website at www.christmascheerboard.ca or call 989-5680.
Our Spirit of Christmas campaign raised $141,614 last year, down a little from the previous season. Hey, we understand. The economic climate was gloomy and perhaps it was a little more difficult to think of those less fortunate than ourselves. We hope to be a little more generous this season and help out the Cheer Board the best we can.
Over the next few weeks, we'll make our pitch. We'll tell you stories of events, companies, and special individuals that help make a difference. We hope they will inspire you to do the same.
Thank you in advance for your support and all the best in this special season.
Please send your donations to The Spirit of Christmas, c/o Winnipeg Free Press, 1355 Mountain Ave., Winnipeg, MB, R2X 3B6.
The Spirit of Christmas