PENHOLD – Hundreds and hundreds of residents had a nice, unexpected seasonal surprise at their front door last week.
More than 1,200 homes were each given a special Winter Warm-up Care box from the town to bring relief and smiles during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.
“If someone had told me last winter that we’d be hit by a pandemic that would change the way we live, I would have thought they’d lost their marbles,” said Town of Penhold Mayor Mike Yargeau. “Well, here we are nine months into a pandemic trying to understand what’s happening, when we can safely get together with family and friends, and what’s in store for our community.”
Yargeau said town staff came up with the idea earlier this year when it was known that the town’s popular Fall Festival and 10th annual Community Christmas would have to be either cancelled or dramatically revised this year due to the pandemic.
"It's been a tough year for everybody, and this is a way for our residents to know we are still here and we are still thinking of everybody, and that the community of Penhold is very important to us,” said Yargeau. “This was months in the making and three days of going hard out to get these boxes packed. We all stuck together and we made it work.”
He said town staff and members of town council were busy for two days last week packing the Winter Warm-up Care boxes inside the Penhold Regional Multiplex.
“We had quite an assembly line in the gymnasium. We could do about 18 boxes at a time,” said Yargeau, who was there to help pack the boxes.
And then on Nov. 19, the packages were delivered to all 1,200 local residences by public works staff, community peace officers, Penhold volunteer firefighters, town staff and members of local community groups.
“There is a lot of stuff, a lot of information and a lot of gifts in there,” said Yargeau.
He said the packages contained locally-sourced products, including different flavoured kettle corn popcorn, colouring crafts from small children, individual packs of hot chocolate, candy, a recipe from a soon-to-be-completed community cookbook, and lots of community and contact information. There was even form letters for Santa Claus for kids to fill out, as well as directions from the Penhold Public Library on how to make homemade Christmas ornaments.
“I feel very blessed to live in a community where people have banded together and watch out for their neighbours,” said Yargeau. “They offer support, encouragement, and a shoulder to lean on.”
The front door care boxes arrived just before the town began its modified Community Christmas during the evening of Nov. 20 with the Winter Warm Up, a drive-in Christmas tree light-up in the multiplex parking lot.
“Community Christmas is the event that kicks off the festive season in Penhold, and we wanted to find a way to make sure this still happens,” said Yargeau. “With an incredible amount of creativity, ingenuity and brain storming, the tree lighting will kick-off four weeks of community activities for residents to safely take part in."