The Christmas Cheer campaign is back this year for its 67th event after suspending operations in 2020.
The campaign’s board is excited to celebrate the holiday season, said chairperson Myrna Lane, although this year’s iteration of the annual celebration will look a little different due to precautions and procedures put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“We’re really looking forward to it,” Lane said.
This year’s campaign began Monday and ends in mid-December. Hampers will be delivered to families in need on Dec. 15 and 16.
In a typical year, Christmas Cheer volunteers produce more than 1,000 hampers for Westman families that are delivered over two days.
Lane said the board expects to see an increased demand for support during the campaign because many Brandonites are still feeling the harmful economic effects of COVID-19, as well as soaring food prices.
It was a challenging decision to not go forward with a campaign in 2020, she said, but a necessary call given the province was experiencing the worst of the pandemic.
During the COVID-19 closure, Christmas Cheer donated food to organizations that could distribute it during the pandemic, and under the leadership of United Way, food was safely distributed in hampers to families in need who registered for Christmas Cheer.
The charity board began meeting in September to plan the campaign’s 2021 return, Lane said. It was an uplifting experience to reunite and start working to ensure everyone in Brandon has a merry Christmas.
She can feel the momentum for Christmas Cheer building because volunteers are excited to be back and helping the community.
Treasurer Bob Walberg added the board hopes this enthusiasm is matched by community volunteers, philanthropists and sponsors.
COVID-19 has transformed how the charity fundraises for the event, he said, and volunteers will not be out in the community soliciting donations. Instead, Christmas Cheer is relying on the goodwill of Brandonites for cash or in-kind donations. He expects this style of fundraising will remain in place until all COVID-19 public health measures are removed.
Those looking to support Christmas Cheer can drop off donations at The Brandon Sun, donate via the Christmas Cheer website at brandonwestmanchristmascheer.ca, send donations via mail to P.O. Box 50003 R7A 7E4, or drop off donations in person at the Christmas Cheer headquarters located at 710 Rosser Ave.
The Christmas Cheer Board is encouraging people to choose non-contact options when possible.
To visit the Christmas Cheer space in person, visitors will be required to show proof of vaccination and photo ID, along with wearing a mask.
Lane has been volunteering with Christmas Cheer since 1986, she said, and comes back each year because she enjoys helping the community.
“That’s important. You never know if you’re going to be in that same position. For me, I see that side of it, and I feel that it’s important for them to have that help,” Lane said.
Over the years, the Christmas Cheer Board has “become like a big family.”
Walberg began volunteering with the organization in 2015.
“They’re great people to work with, and I’m glad I can contribute to it,” Walberg said.
After joining the board, Walberg learned his family was once a recipient of Christmas Cheer hampers.
“To me, it’s a way of giving back. It has come full circle,” Walberg said.
Christmas Cheer typically has 19 board members and is currently recruiting new faces. They are scouting a volunteer to help with PR and social media.
Volunteers to help with the organization and distribution of hampers and packages for Christmas are also always needed.
Christmas Cheer will host its annual Fill The Bus fundraiser at Sobeys West End on Nov. 27 and at Safeway on Dec. 4. They are encouraging people to drop by and help fill a Brandon Transit bus with donations for the campaign. Food, gifts, gift cards and cash donations are welcome.
The annual Wheat Kings Teddy Bear toss night takes place Dec. 11.
All donations made to the campaign are eligible for a tax receipt.
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Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun