Shining support for Santas Anonymous from Jasper community

·3 min read

The kindness and generosity of the Jasper community has shone brightly through the darkness of the COVID pandemic, and the Christmas season is no exception.

That’s what the Jasper Community Team Society (JCTS) has experienced as it oversees the operation of Santas Anonymous this winter.

“We’re blown away by the incredible support from business and community members,” said Leslie Dolan, co-chair and member of the Santas Anonymous committee.

Dolan said the society was expecting it to be a challenge, raising funds and getting donations, because of the pandemic.

“People have opened their hearts and their wallets,” she said.

“The financial donations allow us to share some light and cheer for people experiencing isolation and separation from loved ones. That could be family, it could be friends, it could be someone across the street.”

Dolan pointed out a vast majority of the donations came from local businesses - and much of the money was spent locally too.

She noted groups who are making a positive difference in town, including the Jasper Food Recovery program, the Jasper Food Bank and Coco’s Cafe, who, “stepped up to doing dinners on Christmas Day - unbelievable”.

“Another thing we’re excited about is the December Project,” Dolan said.

Hundreds of Jasperites signed up for the resurrected December Project this year, pledging to take part in 20 minutes of physical activity each day in December for a minimum $20 donation to Santas Anonymous. Already, the initiative has raised more than $15,000 for the cause.

“People are taking the time to share both their enthusiasm and their vulnerability, moving their body, fostering wellness,” Dolan said.

“It normalizes the pressures and challenges that we’re all facing. It invites us to join together, be reminded of what’s important: belonging, caring for each other.”

And that’s what Santas Anonymous is all about.

Dolan said when people think of Santas Anonymous, they think of children. But the program also serves other people who you don’t always think of.

“I think what people need to feel is a sense of belonging,” Dolan said. “If, in some way, the Santas Anonymous program helps, then we have served our purpose. People feel like they matter.”

It is a program found in a lot of communities but executed in different ways, depending on the community.

Santas Anonymous in Jasper, Dolan said, has been an effective group for about 30 years.

“It’s really changed and grown over the years,” she said.

Dolan said Jasper has an eclectic demographic, which could have led to people being separate from each other.

“But there’s been a large number of people who worked tirelessly for decades to create connection,” she said.

The Santas Anonymous campaign is just one initiative of the JCTS, a registered fundraising society and charity that works in partnership with Community Outreach Services (COS).

JCTS raises funds and awareness to help ease small but significant barriers to wellness, from financial difficulty to mental health.

“The society seeks to enhance and augment the program and services offered through the Municipality of Jasper’s Community and Family Services,” Dolan explained.

“It’s an amazing partnership because we have the opportunity to engage the community to work with diverse groups to create home-grown solutions.”

Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh