April 8, 2020

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Cheer still needed after Christmas

CHRISTMAS may be over, but there’s still work to be done at the Christmas Cheer Board.

That includes handing out the last of the approximately 17,000 hampers the charitable organization will distribute this year. Volunteers delivered most of the hampers by the end of the day on Dec. 19, but if people weren’t home, they could pick their hampers up earlier this week.

Around 30 volunteers were at the Cheer Board’s St. James Street headquarters until noon on Christmas Eve, helping folks get their hampers.

"It’s been very, very hectic," executive director Kai Madsen said when asked what the days leading up to Christmas were like at the Cheer Board. "We’ve got people in here right now picking up their hampers. We try to deliver them twice, then once that’s happened, they have to come pick them up."

The Cheer Board was closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, and reopened Friday and today for final hamper pickups.

"If there was anybody there who wasn’t able to come down (before Dec. 25), we don’t want them to go without," Madsen said. "It’s not quite as nice as having it for Christmas, but it’s better than not having it at all."

The Cheer Board is still welcoming donations, Madsen added.

"We don’t close the books until the end of February," he said. "We still need money. We still don’t have enough money to pay the bills yet… We’re hopeful that we’ll come very close (to reaching our goal), but we don’t have it yet."

In addition to sending in donations, there are other things that people can do for the Cheer Board year-round. Anyone interested in these volunteer opportunities can call 204-669-5369 for details.

The Cheer Board, which marked its 100th anniversary this year, will also be back up and running in full force in the final quarter of 2020.

Volunteering for the Cheer Board is worthwhile, said Shawn Remillard, who spent an evening in mid-December delivering hampers with his father-in-law and a friend. The trio showed up at the Cheer Board in Santa hats and loaded five hampers into their vehicle.

The fact that the Cheer Board helps children have a better Christmas compelled Remillard to volunteer.

"I have a two-year-old now, and Christmas is about the kids," he said, adding that he has a family member who has been a hamper recipient. "I’m just glad I can give back."

Kent Mulholland expressed similar sentiments after delivering hampers with his sister and niece.

"We’re in a pretty fortunate position ourselves," Mulholland said. "There are plenty of people who aren’t in that position, through no fault of their own. It’s an opportunity to give back.

"The gratitude, the appreciation, it’s just fun to be a part of," he added.

For Madsen, it’s the volunteers that stick out when he looks back on the last few weeks.

"They work long hours," he said. "They’re very talented and very organized, and that’s the key to success here. We have to be organized and understanding and empathetic. That’s what we’re doing and it’s working in spades."

aaron.epp@gmail.com

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