Christmas hamper ‘team effort’ labour of love
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For the third year in a row, Ally Beauchesne is whipping up holiday magic for some Winnipeg families who could use a little bit of help.
Beauchesne, a real estate agent and mother of two young daughters, has currently committed to make and deliver more than 20 hampers to local families. (Her ultimate goal is 30.)
She has been paired with families through the Christmas Cheer Board and Inspire Community Outreach — both organizations she worked with last year.
The size of each recipient family differs, but Beauchesne says she’s inclined to sponsor larger families because organizations sometimes have a hard time matching such groups with a hamper sponsor.
Her hamper drive doesn’t stop. If Beauchesne completes her goal and has received enough to make the hampers she’s committed to, she expands her reach to make more and help more.
There are moments when the enormity of the project hits her, and it becomes overwhelming. Beauchesne confides, a couple of times, she’s felt the weight of the world on her shoulders: what if she doesn’t raise enough money to fulfil her commitments? What if this is all too much? What if she can’t pull this off?
But, she says, somehow it has always worked out.
Beauchesne relies heavily on donations from friends and strangers alike; there are hundreds of people who offer donations ranging from a dollar or two to thousands.
For her part, Beauchesne scours flyers, online sales and Amazon.ca, trying to stretch her donations as far as they can go. She even tallies up points for customer reward programs, buying items she needs that will earn extra points, and then putting them toward grocery items for the hampers.
Beauchesne frequently posts about sales and needed items, and shares a regularly updated Amazon wish list on social media.
Her process is like a well-oiled machine. She is driven equally by the need to help people and by the support of a community so willing to aid in her efforts. When it comes time to deliver the hampers, Beauchesne says she usually delivers just one, because there are so many other people who volunteer to help.
“This isn’t me financing 30 hampers on my own,” she says. “It is hundreds and hundreds of people donating — and so I want that vibe when the hampers are going out.”
Beauchesne says she was moved to do something after she read a column I wrote about my family’s experience receiving Christmas hampers.
(I need to make it clear I am not taking credit for any of Beauchesne’s hard work. I am humbled and overjoyed I shared a story that moved her. However, that and a couple of donations towards her good work are the extent of my involvement. If any credit is due, it’s my folks, who taught us how special it was to celebrate receiving such a gift — and it’s all the people like Beauchesne who give the gift of magic to so many families over the holiday season.)
“I just knew I could do something,” she says.
The task of doing this is giant, though Beauchesne has put up boundaries for herself. She doesn’t do anything hamper-related in the evenings until after her daughters, Charlie and Penny, go down for the night, and she tries to limit the time she spends on on the weekends, as well. She credits her husband, Josh, and close friends and family, for helping her to keep boundaries.
“It’s a team effort. Everyone sees me posting the deals and asking for things, but there are a lot of people helping out behind the scenes,” Beauchesne says.
When reaching out to each of the families, Beauchesne asks if there is a special-request item that could be included in a hamper. She can’t guarantee it will be included, but she will try, because she wants to make sure hampers are put together thoughtfully and meet the needs of each family.
“Literally 90 per cent of all the women — I’ve only talked to women — all they’ve asked for is laundry detergent,” Beauchesne says. “I’m like yeah, I’m going to include laundry detergent. Let’s make this your hamper.”
Christmas hampers have been Beauchesne’s big project, but throughout the year she heads up smaller giving initiatives when she sees a need. In 2022 alone, she fundraised to buy items such as diapers and baby food for the West Central Women’s Centre and North Point Douglas Women’s Centre.
“I just want to tell people that if they are interested in donating, in any capacity, whether it’s donating items, money, or their time to deliver a hamper, they can reach out. I’ve made a Facebook page specifically for this project, and for future fundraisers,” she says.
“We never know when we might need help, so that’s why I just want to create this kind of community where we all help each other.”
Hamper donations can be dropped off at Sutton Group (663A Stafford St.) or Babette’s Cannabis Dispensary (3226 Portage Ave.), or contact Beauchesne trough her Facebook group Operation Winnipeg or on Twitter.
Columnist, Manager of Reader Bridge project
Shelley is a born and raised Winnipegger. She is a proud member of the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation.