Filling the Whitecourt Christmas Hamper with love from the community

·5 min read

Each year, the Whitecourt Christmas Hamper puts out a call to the community to help those less fortunate by donating towards their campaign. Big boxes get placed in businesses throughout the municipality as an accessible drop-off point, and community organizations and businesses step forward to help encourage donations by holding events. This year, on Saturday, November 20, two events are happening.

Carbonex Contractors and Smitty's Restaurant have teamed up to hold an afternoon get-together in the Midtown Mall parking lot. Lisa Bergeson, Office Manager for Carbonex Contractors, said this was their second year doing the fundraiser and the first time partnering with another business. "With everything that was going on with COVID, lots of families were struggling, and we felt we would do our part to help them out. I'm pretty sure this will be an annual thing for us from now on."

Smitty's Restaurant staff will be with them at Midtown Mall from noon until 4 pm, serving delicious hot chocolate. "We will have Santa and his sleigh set up for pictures. Mrs. Claus might be coming, but we don't have that verified yet. People can come and take pictures with their cameras or phones, and everyone can bring their donations. We know people like to get professional pictures with Santa, but not everyone can afford to get that done, so this will allow them to get pictures without having to pay," explained Bergeson.

She said that last year's event wasn't as great as they had hoped because of how restricted it was but that she is hoping to see lots of people at this year's event. "Last year, we ended up with about 150 gifts and food items donated. This year, I hope we can at least double that with lifted restrictions and having activities to draw people down."

For those who can't make it on November 20, Bergeson said that donations could be dropped off at any time at both Carbonex Contractors and Smitty's Restaurant. Plus, in early December, Smitty's will hold a pancake event where those who donate receive a free stack. "We will be on-site for that with our trailer, and we will be working together," said Bergeson.

All the donations both companies collect will be picked up by the Whitecourt Christmas Hamper towards the middle of December. Bergeson said that Carbonex Contractors was fortunate to keep working through the pandemic but that Smitty's Restaurant wasn't so fortunate. "I know that lots of people there were laid off for a good amount of time, so the fact that they are still willing to help with this, says a lot about them."

A hop-skip and a jump away at the Canadian Tire parking lot will be another event in support of the Christmas Hamper. The Rotary Club of Whitecourt and the Oil Wives will be there from 10 am until 4 pm, collecting unwrapped toys and gift cards. Holly Astill, Service Projects Coordinator for the Rotary Club, said this is the first joint venture for the hamper and that both are excited to be part of it. "We have not done this before. The Oil Wives haven't been able to meet in person and haven't been able to do any projects, so they are going to be gathering up toys from their members and assisting in spreading the community message to get everyone involved for such a good cause."

The Oil Wives is a social club that also does service projects in the community, and several members are also in the Rotary Club, which is how the partnership came to be. "We will have our Rotary trailer parked there so that everyone can come down and donate any new, unwrapped toy, and we hope to give out hot chocolate and candy canes to those who come. We have a couple of local businesses partnering with us to help supply some of that, McDonald's and Western Canada Coffee. It'll be a great event to bring the community together in the spirit of Christmas," remarked Astill.

"Our particular goal in this is about bringing awareness of how important this is to the community and even bringing awareness to have other community groups join us. The fact that we can even be helping one more family that wouldn't be helped otherwise would be a reward enough." Another goal for the Rotary Club of Whitecourt is to let people know about things needed that don't get donated as often. "I don't know if the community is aware that all of the teenagers get gift cards so they can go and do some of the buying for themselves for something that they would like or that would fit them. So, that's a good thing to donate. Also, crazy carpets, sleds, lip balm, and personal hygiene products."

Astill said they also accept mittens, toques and winter outfits for children aged 17 and under, but nothing handmade. "Family games, stuffed animals, arts and crafts, gift cards and preteen books. Those are all things that are amazing to add to the mix." She thanked Canadian Tire for their hospitality in offering them the use of the parking lot.

Here are the details for both of the Toy Runs taking place on Saturday, November 20. From 12 pm to 4 pm at Midtown Mall, Carbonex Contractors and Smitty's Restaurant will accept donations and offer Santa pictures. The Rotary Club and Oil Wives will run their event from 10 am until 4 pm at Canadian Tire. Community members are encouraged to support both events if they can.

Serena Lapointe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Whitecourt Press

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