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As we deal with the pandemic, many of us would welcome a miracle heading into the holiday season.

While our local miracle won’t help people against the virus, it will help fill the stomachs of the people who need it most during the holiday season.

It’s time once again for the Free Press’s annual Miracle on Mountain fundraising campaign to help the Christmas Cheer Board. This year, we have to admit, it is a tall mountain to climb.

We all know COVID-19 has taken away many things from our daily lives.

We’ve seen the virus force the closure of restaurants and bars. We can’t go see a movie or a live symphony or theatre performance. For many students, the only way they see their teacher is on a computer screen. It has basically kept us in or around our residences for months. It has stolen the lives of our loved ones.

The virus has forced the Cheer Board to do something it has never done in its 101-year history: it will not hand out food this year.

Kai Madsen, the board’s head elf, said to reduce the risk to volunteers as well as food hamper recipients, of contracting the novel coronavirus, they have decided not to distribute hampers. Instead, food vouchers will be mailed to individuals and families who qualify.

An individual who needs help will get a $30 food voucher. A family of two to three members will get one for $50, four to five in a family will get a $75 voucher and six and up will get a $100 voucher.

It’s expected 17,000 to 18,000 vouchers will be sent out.

Madsen says, unfortunately, it won’t be as much as what would be in a hamper. The hampers have so much food stuffed in them, including a turkey, that they are worth far more than the voucher, but it can’t be helped.

"We wouldn’t be able to afford to pay for the cost of a hamper," he said. "A lot of the food in them is donated.

"We have to pay for all the food vouchers."

Madsen says even though the Cheer Board won’t have to buy turkeys, toys for kids, or extra food, the cost will be the same as last year because of the lack of food donations.

"We are looking forward to next year going back to having food hampers.

"I’m going to die on the job if this comes up again."

It all means that this year, more than any other year, it’s up to you, our generous readers.

"Our readers have always been there for the Cheer Board in the past and I know they will find a way to help them through the challenge COVID-19 poses this Christmas," Free Press editor Paul Samyn said.

"If ever there was a need for a Miracle on Mountain, a Christmas in the heart of a pandemic is it."

Last year, generous Free Press readers donated about $80,000.

Yes, this virus has taken away many things from us during the last eight months. Let’s not let it rob people of help when they need it the most. Please give generously.

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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