January 23, 2020

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Volunteers spread Christmas cheer through delivering hampers

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Tim Watters unloads packed hampers at the Christmas Cheer Board, which supplies 17,000 hampers annually, in Winnipeg on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. For Brenda Suderman/Gabrielle Piche story. Winnipeg Free Press 2019.</p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Tim Watters unloads packed hampers at the Christmas Cheer Board, which supplies 17,000 hampers annually, in Winnipeg on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. For Brenda Suderman/Gabrielle Piche story. Winnipeg Free Press 2019.

DENIS Bonnefoy arrived at the Christmas Cheer Board in good spirits. There to deliver hampers, he immediately started dancing with the volunteer who greeted him at the door on Tuesday.

"It’s always nice to give your time to help others," said Bonnefoy, who is in his late 50s. "You get to meet nice people."

Bonnefoy had never visited the Cheer Board before Tuesday. Within 15 minutes, he and Allan Oakes, his friend, were in the car and on their way to make two downtown deliveries.

Like Bonnefoy, Oakes was new to volunteering with the Cheer Board.

SHANNON VANRAES / WINNIPEG FREE PRESSKai Madsen, executive director of the Christmas Cheer Board, at the organization's St. James St. warehouse on November 29, 2019.</p>

SHANNON VANRAES / WINNIPEG FREE PRESSKai Madsen, executive director of the Christmas Cheer Board, at the organization's St. James St. warehouse on November 29, 2019.

The 38-year-old, who is originally from Edmonton, is no stranger to helping others, though. He spent 12 years of his childhood as a Boy Scout, which included numerous opportunities to serve others.

"I miss being involved in that tradition of volunteer work," Oakes said.

Bonnefoy and Oakes are just two of the volunteer drivers who will deliver more than 17,000 hampers this month.

Michelle Hauri and Lynelle Hebert are two more volunteer drivers. While Bonnefoy and Oakes were driving around downtown, Hauri and Hebert — friends who have known each other for more than 20 years — made deliveries in St. Boniface.

It was their third year volunteering with the Cheer Board.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>FAITH - packing hampers at Charleswood United Church.</p><p>Volunteers from Charleswood United church celebrate as they start packing their 50th hamper, which is their last one for the Christmas Cheer Board on Friday morning.</p><p>According to the Cheer Board, they are the single-largest private provider of hampers. John Longhurst story</p><p>Dec 13th, 2019</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

FAITH - packing hampers at Charleswood United Church.

Volunteers from Charleswood United church celebrate as they start packing their 50th hamper, which is their last one for the Christmas Cheer Board on Friday morning.

According to the Cheer Board, they are the single-largest private provider of hampers. John Longhurst story

Dec 13th, 2019

Hauri said delivering hampers is an easy way to volunteer because it just takes a bit of time and gas money.

"It’s not a high cost to do this," the 44-year-old said.

The interactions that volunteers have with the people they deliver to are often meaningful, Hebert said.

"Once you get there, the people are so thankful," she said.

En route to one of their deliveries, Hebert texted a hamper recipient to make sure she was home. The woman and her two-year-old son greeted the women at the door with huge smiles.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Packed hampers at the Christmas Cheer Board, which supplies 17,000 hampers annually, in Winnipeg on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. For Brenda Suderman/Gabrielle Piche story. Winnipeg Free Press 2019.</p>

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Packed hampers at the Christmas Cheer Board, which supplies 17,000 hampers annually, in Winnipeg on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. For Brenda Suderman/Gabrielle Piche story. Winnipeg Free Press 2019.

After Hebert and Hauri left, the woman sent Hebert a text to say thanks.

"You get all warm and fuzzy," Hebert said.

"It’s totally worth it," Hauri added.

Anyone with a valid driver’s licence and a vehicle can deliver hampers. All they have to do is show up at the Cheer Board headquarters at 947 St. James St. any time from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

The Cheer Board encourages people to work in teams of two or more.

Making deliveries was meaningful for Bonnefoy and Oakes, who headed back to the Cheer Board to pick up more hampers after completing their first two-stop run.

While reflecting on the experience, Oakes mentioned the duo’s first delivery to a hotel on Main Street. They were greeted at the front desk by a man whose gruff demeanour turned friendly once he realized they were from the Cheer Board.

"You can see the recognition of the program and the impact it has," Oakes said. "It was pretty incredible to witness something like that in the community."

aaron.epp@gmail.com

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