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Sundre Santas gears up to spread cheer

Annual food hamper program provides help for average of 300 people
MVT-Sundre Santas food hampers
Longtime community volunteer Elaine Myett was among about half a dozen women preparing Sundre Santas food hampers last year at Santa’s Workshop, located at the former Sundre Motors Inn building. Organizers and volunteers will be returning this year to prepare hampers from Dec. 6-17. File photo/MVP Staff

SUNDRE — Although ongoing public health measures will again limit the scope of the annual Sundre Santas program, organizers at Greenwood Neighbourhood Place Society (GNP) are nevertheless getting ready to spread some holiday cheer to those in need with the help of volunteers.

“The hamper registrations have opened,” said Cherie Johnson, GNP’s Family and Community Support Services outreach coordinator and community development.

Application forms, she added, are available throughout the community at local drug stores, Sundre Municipal Library, the society’s office, as well as the customer service desk at Freson Bros., and must be brought back to GNP during business hours by Dec. 7.

“We’ve got several that have come in today,” she said on Tuesday, Nov. 16 during a phone interview. “We’re really trying to spread the word to get this out to people who are in need, and just expecting maybe that it might be a little bit higher number this year.”

In any given year, organizers never know how many registrations to expect, although there on average seems to be about 300 people who are served by the program, she said.

“It’s a guessing game, but we really want to try to reach as many people as we can in the Sundre school district area,” she said.

“Whether they’re seniors or just unable to get out of the house, we just don’t want them to miss out on getting help during Christmas. You just never know what will come up in somebody’s life. We could be doing really well one day, and the next, it just unfolds.”

And with inflation sending the costs of living ever higher, everything from fuel and insurance costs to bills, food and accommodation has increased, creating a level of uncertainty about how much demand there might be for the program this year.

Although Sundre Santas this year will operate in a fashion similar to last year on a tighter timeline with fewer of the many activities that would usually be planned, such as the Magic of Christmas Sale that offers youth a chance to find affordable gifts for family and friends, Sundre and Bergen 4-H Club members will be back for the food drive that was cancelled last year, she said.

“That’s going to be a huge help to this program,” she said.

The clubs will be making the rounds on Sunday, Dec. 12 starting at 2 p.m. Residents who will be away but still want to contribute non-perishable food items are invited to leave their items on their doorstep for pickup.

As Sundre Santas on average costs about $40,000 to run every year, the society’s primary focus is fundraising, she said.

“Without that, we don’t have any of the program,” she said, adding the other main focus is of course preparing the food hampers.

Santa's workshop will once again return to the former Sundre Motors building on the north side of the Main Avenue-Highway 27 corridor just east of the traffic lights.

Organizers and volunteers will be in the building from Dec. 6-17, a shorter span of time than prior to the pandemic, she said.

“So, we’re not able to collect as many items this year to store away,” she said. “I hope next year, it’s bigger and better and we can get back to what we all love to do.”

Although the society has already lined up a mix of new and veteran volunteers, anyone interested in lending a hand is welcome to call GNP’s office at 403-638-1011.

“If anybody wants to reach out to help, I’ll put them on the list and as the tasks become available, if they’re able to help then that’s great,” she said.

Since lingering pandemic protocols limit large numbers of people from gathering, she said, “We’ve had to really evaluate what we can and cannot do. And definitely, the food hampers are a really important piece of the program. That’s what we’ll focus on this year.”

There is no set fundraising goal, and the society is grateful to receive however much people can spare. Every year, the community goes above and beyond in generously supporting Sundre Santas, she said.

“We’ve been lucky to run this program for years and not feel like we’re worried that we won’t be able to do it next year,” she said. “So, it’s definitely something that is supported in our community. We’re very lucky.”

Partnerships with local businesses such as the grocery store also provide crucial assistance to ensure the program’s continued delivery, she said.

Freson Bros. is selling $20 bags full of non-perishable food items to be put into the hamper program, and the store also has a collection bin for items, she said.

And other local participating businesses will for the second time be offering gift cards that customers can purchase specifically for inclusion in Sundre Santas hampers, she added.

“Last year was the first year that we did the gift card program,” she said, adding it was well received.

Participating businesses will display a sign featuring a Christmas tree stating their support for the program, she said.

“It’s another way of people donating to Sundre Santas by supporting local businesses because we cannot collect items right now, like the toys and the toques and the mitts,” she said. “This gives the chance to put a gift card into a hamper, and then the families can go and purchase their own items.”

People also have the option to offer a financial donation directly to GNP either by going to the society’s office or through an online format on a website called Canada Helps. Visit and search Greenwood Neighbourhood Place. 

Simon Ducatel

About the Author: Simon Ducatel

Simon Ducatel is the editor of the Sundre Round Up and a longtime columnist for other publications of Mountain View Publishing.
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