The Christmas Cheer Board celebrated 100 years of helping low-income families through delivering food and gifts.
The organization celebrated 100 years of operation on Nov. 26. The board was created in 1919 to provide hampers and toys for widows and orphans of the First World War. The organization has since expanded to providing thousands of Christmas hampers to poor families in the city.
Kai Madsen is the executive director of the Christmas Cheer Board. This is his 50th year with the organization. He said he’s happy about the milestone, but wishes that the need for the board wasn’t so great.
"It’s a mixed blessing. I’m proud of what the organization has achieved over 100 years, but the need is still there. It would be nice if the need for our service was less, I don’t have all the answers to solve poverty," Madsen said. "In the end, it’s not for me, it’s for all the folks out there who come back every year."
Madsen said this year they’ll be sending out around 17,000 hampers, filled with things like turkeys, canned pasta, cake mixes and other food items. The hampers also come with a gift, which is tailored to the family receiving the hamper. The hampers are being packed up by volunteers at 947 St. James St.
He added that a lot of their donations come from people who’ve received hampers in the past, who now donate as a way of paying it forward.
Madsen said what they really need are financial contributions, which they use to fill in when they don’t get the right items donated.
"If people want us to do our job, well then, quite literally, they have to send us their cheque. We are a small community organization that has a lot of expenses to cover," Madsen said. "When (people) donate toys, it’s fun to go out and buy a toy for a cute cuddly three-year-old girl, but for a 14-year-old guy, that’s not so much fun. We have to fill in those spots where we don’t get enough, that’s why we need the money."
The Christmas Cheer Board needs to raise around $850,000 each year to help pay for costs such as operating the warehouse, paying for vehicles to pick up extra food, and fill in wherever they need for donations. Madsen added that while donations are appreciated, people tend to donate products like canned food.
He said the hampers are meant to be a celebration, and as such they add things like chocolate and cake mix to help make the occasion feel special. The board also buys their own turkeys for the hamper, to ensure that they’re good products that won’t make a family sick.
For more information, or to donate to the Christmas Cheer Board, visit christmascheerboard.ca or call 204-989-5680.
Community journalist — The Metro
Justin Luschinski is the community journalist for The Metro. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org