SUNDRE – The annual, volunteer-led drive to deliver local holiday cheer and lift spirits through the Christmas season’s deep freeze is already well underway.
The Sundre Santas program -- which ever since 1998 has been orchestrated every year by the Sundre Greenwood Neighbourhood Place Society and supported by community donors as well as helping hands -- culminates in an effort to prepare and distribute food hampers for those who register.
An average of about 450 people reportedly benefit from the program on an annual basis.
Volunteers provide the helping hands that bring the program to life, but its success also hinges on the community’s support. Financial donations, non-perishable food items as well as gift cards from local businesses are all accepted.
Registration for the Sundre and area’s Christmas hamper program started Saturday, Nov. 12 and winds up on Tuesday, Dec. 6. Forms are available at the society’s office or the Sundre Municipal Library, which are both located at the Sundre Community Centre building, as well as participating local businesses.
And making a comeback at the Sundre West Country Centre this year for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, is the Magic of Christmas Sale on Saturday, Dec. 10 when children will from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. have the opportunity to peruse potential new or gently-used gifts for family and friends and buy some presents that will be wrapped up by Santa’s elves.
Call the society’s office at 403-638-1011 for more information or visit www.mygnp.org to make a donation online. Anyone who might be interested in getting involved is invited to email Cherie Johnson at email@example.com.
Residents who want to donate some food for the Christmas hampers can also set aside some non-perishable items for pickup as members of the Sundre and Bergen 4-H multi-clubs will on Sunday, Dec. 4 be conducting a food drive starting at 2 p.m. and collecting donations door to door.
And although details are yet to be announced, the Sundre & District Chamber of Commerce recently set the date for Sundown in Sundre on Friday, Dec. 2.
Also underway is the Sundre Palliative Care Association’s annual Tree of Hope fundraising initiative that leads to a lighting ceremony of a tree at the Myron Thompson Health Centre grounds that is adorned with blue bulbs in memory of lost loved ones as well as red bulbs representing a greeting of hope to family and friends.
Pledge forms are available at GNP’s office as well as participating local business, and the ceremony starts at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 2 at the Sundre hospital’s parking lot, said Jo-Anne McDonald, event organizer and member of the palliative care association.
“There’s a significant amount of small business that support us, and that has really helped us out,” she said. “We appreciate the small business connection in town.”
Members of the Sundre Community Choir will sing some carols following official addresses and reading of the names, she said.
The funds raised by the Tree of Hope initiative all go toward providing compassionate, quality end-of-life care for patients, she said.
However, she added the association has also endeavoured to evolve beyond a primary focus on palliative care to branch out into providing grief support services, she said.
“That is something we’ve really expanded into,” she said. “We found that there was a huge need for grief support.”
The Tree of Hope isn’t just about the pledge forms and raising funds, but also increasing awareness in the community about the available resources, she said.
“The fundraiser allows us the opportunity to directly connect with our community and just let them know what we have to offer,” she said.
But as important as raising funds is, having enough helping hands to ensure the association is able to continue its work is also key.
“We really need to increase our volunteer numbers,” she said. “With the last couple of years and everything else, our volunteer numbers have gone down.”
There’s a minimal time commitment involved but volunteers who are so inclined can go beyond that. The only pre-requisite, she said, is for volunteers to be compassionate.
From planning out events in advance to helping set up and take down when an event happens or even just taking a couple hour shift at a farmers’ market, there are multiple roles volunteers can help with, she said, adding it doesn’t necessarily mean sitting with a palliative care patient.
Of course if providing compassionate companionship to palliative care patients resonates with someone, the association will cover the cost of their training, she said.
Anyone interested in getting involved can email firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, they can contact McDonald at 403-638-6975 or Diana Kleinloog, the association’s chair, at 403-335-8481.
McDonald also extended an invitation for the public to consider joining on Sunday, Dec. 4 starting at 3 p.m. the first standalone Candlelight Service of Remembrance since the pandemic started, which will be held at the Sundre Seniors Supportive Living centre.