Gifts that make a difference

Many ways to donate to charities during holiday season


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It will soon look a lot like Christmas and local charities are ramping up their donor appeals to remind people the window is closing to make charitable donations for the current tax year.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/11/2016 (2374 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It will soon look a lot like Christmas and local charities are ramping up their donor appeals to remind people the window is closing to make charitable donations for the current tax year.

There are some initiatives by charitable and non-profit organizations geared specifically for the holiday season — and not all of them are looking for a donation. Here are a few you may want to support.

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BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Roberta Popoff hangs a card on the Memory Tree in honour of her husband, Jake, who died this September.

Christmas can be a fun time with families getting together, celebrating with friends and travelling.

But it can also be a sad time for someone who has recently lost a family member or is still feeling their loss.

Palliative Manitoba understands this and for the 24th time has set up the Memory Tree.

Executive director Mindy Barsky-Veitch said the tree, located inside St. Vital Centre just outside The Bay entrance, serves as a place for people who are experiencing feelings of loss, loneliness and social isolation. People are encouraged to write messages in a card to the person who has died.

“The Memory Tree is a way for people to connect with their loved ones and memorialize them,” Barsky-Veitch said.

“We also have lots of volunteers on hand for them to talk to who are trained for bereavement support services. It is a very cathartic thing for people to do.”

Last year, 1,874 visitors placed 1,776 cards on the tree.

Barsky-Veitch said 380 of them were cards coloured by children.

It’s all free, but people are welcome to give a tax-deductible donation to the organization.

The tree will be in the mall until Dec. 24. Volunteers are present Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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When you’re a woman and you’ve had to leave an abusive spouse to seek shelter — many times with your children — a Christmas gift for yourself is not high on the priority list.

But the Shoebox Project for Shelters wants to ensure these women realize they’re not forgotten at this time of year.

Alex Todd, who co-ordinates the Manitoba Shoebox Project with Eva Whitmore, said it’s the fourth year they have operated the program, which encourages Manitobans to wrap and fill shoeboxes with $50 worth of “little luxuries.”

Todd said the items have to be new and can include makeup, body or hand lotion, perfume, tea and gift cards. They can’t include anything that contains alcohol, such as mouthwash or liquor-filled chocolates, she said.

Todd said 55,000 shoeboxes were distributed in 130 communities across the country last year. Closer to home, 2,079 shoeboxes went to shelters in 13 Manitoba communities as well as Kenora, Ont. They included Willow Place, formerly Osborne House, and Ikwe Widdjiitiwin in Winnipeg, but also Selkirk’s Nova House, Winkler’s Genesis House and The Pas’ Aurora House.

“Our focus is for women in shelters and in a state of homelessness or high risk,” she said.

“It is a challenging time for them, especially during the Christmas season. It’s a time they won’t splurge on what is considered little luxuries. It proves to them and reinforces that they are important and they do matter.”

The shoeboxes can be dropped off until Dec. 5, at the Millennial, Henderson, Louis Riel, Westwood, Pembina Trails, St. James-Assiniboia, Transcona and Osborne library branches, as well as Pilates Manitoba, 390 Academy Rd., and Energy 106, 520 Corydon Ave. They can also be dropped at the PharmaSave location in Oakbank.

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L’Arche Winnipeg, which offers housing for people living with developmental disabilities, is holding its second public presentation of its Christmas pageant.

The pageant follows the Christmas story leading up to the birth of Jesus and it is acted out in tableaus by members of L’Arche, accompanied by a narrator and the singing of carols.

There is no admission cost, but there will be a free-will offering with donations going to Winnipeg Harvest.

“The residents of L’Arche are putting it on, about 15 of them, along with staff members,” said Eva Carrasco.

“It is free, but we want to support Winnipeg Harvest because we know their numbers have gone up.”

Diane Truderung said L’Arche traditionally held an annual Christmas pageant for its members, their families and supporters, but last year decided to open it up to the public.

“We had apprehension about that, but not the residents,” Truderung said.

“But it was very exciting and our members were amazing — they did their parts perfectly… it was so successful that this year we are moving to a larger hall.”

The pageant is being held at Covenant Christian Reformed Church, 653 Knowles Ave., on Dec. 5 at 7 p.m.

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Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is incurable, but there’s a way you can not only help people living with it, but also help light up the Christmas spirit for them.

The ALS Society of Manitoba’s annual Lite Up a Life Campaign kicks off Dec. 1. For $10, you can light 10 bulbs, $20 for 25 bulbs, $50 for 75 bulbs, or for $150 you can light up a whole tree.

The fundraiser helps support the Brummitt-Feasby ALS House, the only house in Canada devoted to the care and support of people with ALS. The trees were donated by the Lacoste Garden Centre and were put up by Vincent Massey Collegiate students.

“It’s a campaign about remembering people who have passed from ALS, remembering those living with ALS, and those yet to be diagnosed,” said Diane Rasmussen, ALS executive director.

Rasmussen said people are encouraged to drive by the house at 106 Kirby Dr., to see the trees all lit up.

Call 204-831-1510 to make a donation to light up the bulbs.

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You’ve got all your presents, but do you have time to wrap them? Or do you really want to wear a heavy winter coat while you’re shopping?

The St. Amant Foundation wants to help.

The foundation, which helps children and adults living with disabilities and autism, is holding its annual gift wrap and coat check at St. Vital Centre. The service will be located inside a space beside the Winnipeg Jets Gear store near London Drugs.

St. Amant spokeswoman Jennifer Rodrigue said volunteers will be ready to wrap presents or check your coat starting Nov. 25. They’ll tie their final bows on Dec. 24.

There will be suggested donation amounts for wrapping at the site with all proceeds going to help run St. Amant programs.

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The granddaddy Christmas charity of them all — the Christmas Cheer Board — is looking for donations of money and food.

The Cheer Board began filling hampers last week and chief elf Kai Madsen said he expects more than 18,000 will be filled and distributed by the end of the campaign. The hampers provide everything needed for a Christmas meal as well as a present.

“Last year we had 18,478 and the year before we had 18,516,” Madsen said.

“The only wild card is how much help the refugees may need. They have support, but we don’t know if they’ll need hampers or not. But if they need us, we are here.”

Food and monetary donations will be accepted by the Cheer Board at 250-1395 Ellice Ave.

As well, monetary donations can be mailed to the Winnipeg Free Press’s Miracle on Mountain, Box 1800, Winnipeg, MB, R3C 3R1, or dropped off at TD and CIBC bank branches. Food donations will be accepted at all Safeway and Sobeys stores.

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.


Updated on Saturday, November 26, 2016 11:37 AM CST: Photo added.

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