Sackville's 'Christmas Cheer' at risk as the charity is short on donations

·4 min read

Christmas Cheer, a 50-year-old annual effort created to help people in Sackville at Christmas time, is low on money.

For decades, the charity has been making sure about 250 families have food and presents at Christmas time.

But while the charity has operated in much the same way for decades, the pandemic is making fundraising difficult.

Elizabeth Wells, president of the Sackville Community Association, the charity that organizes Christmas Cheer, said the group has typically relied on word of mouth and an annual mail out to past donors to stir up the approximately $35,000 raised each year.

"We don't have any kind of administrative support, we don't have a website, so we're just relying on the community to know that this is what we do every year," said Wells.

But this year, the charity finds itself thousands of dollars behind. The group is asking for help from people in Sackville who can afford to do so.

"We are finding that our donations are a little bit slower coming in because, as people have moved away or have become deceased, we don't have the means to get in touch with new people in town," said Wells.


Word doesn't spread as easily when people stay home

"We don't really have the means to have a much larger communication strategy than we have, we have a Facebook page," said Wells.

"I'm concerned because the word isn't out yet."

The local paper, the Sackville Tribune Post always did a story each year about their efforts leading up to the holidays. But it laid off its staff at the start of the pandemic, something Wells said was valuable publicity.

"It just reminded people who aren't necessarily getting a letter that the campaign was still going," said Wells.

The charity was formed sometime around 1970, when the churches in the town got together to pool resources in one charity.

Formed to help 'wayfarers' with a hot meal, a shower, a bus ticket

"We dealt with wayfarers who were looking for a bus ticket or an overnight or a meal as well as Christmas cheer," said Wells.

"So we would help those people but that is all dried up as well, as people don't have the money to even be a wayfarer anymore."

Aside from Christmas Cheer, the charity also helps kids in need by providing school supplies and summer camps, and is there for people who are just having a hard time, no matter what time of year.

"We're the only game in town for this particular purpose. We have a food bank and that's it. "

- Elizabeth Wells

"If they run into trouble with fuel oil or a bill, they can't pay medical expenses or a cab to get to Moncton for a medical appointment," said Wells.

To find individuals who may need help at Christmas, the group puts up signs at the local food bank and calls anyone who has previously received help.

People can also refer a family they think might need it.

But unlike in bigger centres where services are often duplicated, Wells said, "we're the only game in town for this particular purpose."

"We have a food bank and that's it. "

Andrew Swanson, senior pastor at Main Street Baptist Church, said it's nice to have a place to send people in need.

Tori Weldon/CBC
Tori Weldon/CBC

"We know of a lot of people who come through asking for neighbours or grandchildren or people that they know who may not be able to celebrate Christmas the way that other people might," said Swanson.

He said the group does a good job maintaining people's privacy, which can be especially important in people feeling able to receive and ask for help in a small town.

"This is flesh and blood, helping people that are right near us and so that's a beautiful thing," said Swanson.

Anyone wishing to give money can drop off a cheque or cash to the Sackville Branch of the Royal Bank. Toys and gift cards can be dropped off at the Sackville United Church between noon and 4:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.