City agencies chip in to spread Cheer Board joy
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Steven Falk counts himself among the more than 1,000 individuals and families who will receive a hamper through the Christmas Cheer Board and Friends Housing Inc.
“It makes a difference,” says Falk, 69, who has benefited from the community’s generosity for 20 years. “I’ve been with Friends Housing for over 33 years. And, for many years, I’ve gotten (a hamper).”
He says it helps to brighten the holiday season.
Indeed, that’s the goal of the Miracle on Mountain campaign, a Free Press fundraiser that supports the Cheer Board. The campaign has raised about $50,000 so far this year.
The Cheer Board connects with over 50 social organizations that set up hamper programs for disadvantaged members of the community.
Crystal Phillips, Friends Housing mental health director, is co-ordinating Falk’s hamper.
“All of our clientele are low-income,” Phillips said. “(Hampers) help take the burden off.”
Friends Housing helps to provide living accommodations to low-income individuals dealing with mental illness. Phillips said the organization will receive 25 hampers from the Cheer Board this year, which will help one family, three couples and 22 individuals.
Falk says on hamper delivery day, he and his neighbours like to get together to share what they received. He says the items in his hamper change yearly, but he does have a favourite.
“I really like peanut butter,” Falk said.
Shawna Bell, Christmas Cheer Board executive director, said the city’s many agencies act as bridges, connecting people without phones or fixed addresses to hampers.
“We work with them to make sure… no person is left behind or family,” said Bell.
The Cheer Board tries to be mindful of every individual’s situation, as some are homeless, live in group homes or don’t have access to a full kitchen.
Bell said that means including microwave-friendly food or pull-tab, quick-serve food.
Meanwhile, New Directions For Children Youth Adults and Families will receive 200 hampers, which will go to families and individuals in its supported independent living program.
“At times, they can be couch surfing or maybe trying to choose to stay on the street in between successful housing,” said Jennifer Frain, CEO of New Directions.
“People are really hurting and are really struggling to get food on the table. Christmas would be a whole lot more depressing, and it’s already a very tough time of year for many people for many families that we support.”
Frain said she appreciates the long and deep relationship with the Cheer Board that continues to support her organization amid inflation.
“We’re both very old organizations in Winnipeg, trying to support vulnerable folks,” Frain said. “They can be very stable, or they can be very unstable in terms of where they are in their lives and what’s going on for them.”
Bell said it’s all about making sure people know the community cares about them, and they have a gift to open this holiday season.
Kaitlin Moar, 31, feels blessed to be remembered during the holiday season.
“When you open the box, it’s basically just excitement… what you have got to make a good meal for yourself or your family,” she said.
Moar’s holiday hamper comes through New Directions.
“When I got the hamper, it was a big relief. I was excited to see what I got, kind of like a kid at a candy store,” said Moar. “Because I couldn’t afford anything.”
Donations are more critical than ever due to rising food costs Moar said.
“Even if it’s not a major donation, anything helps,” Moar said. “Just try and donate as much as you can… make sure someone in the less fortunate community still has food, still has clothes.”
Updated on Saturday, December 3, 2022 12:26 PM CST: fixes typo