No matter what's been thrown their way, organizers of this year's Jasper Santas Anonymous program are doing their best to see that families have food and gifts to enjoy this Christmas season.
This year, more families than ever will be accessing Santas Anonymous due to the COVID-19 pandemic contributing to more unemployment, isolation and financial stress.
Pattie Pavlov, general manager of Jasper Park Chamber of Commerce, said this year, as many as 100 families are participating. In years past, it has hovered around the 70, 80 point.
She and Ashley Chorley, operations manager with Chamber, are working with "the new and different nuances" that have been presented by the COVID pandemic.
With COVID as one of the primary concerns, they wondered how they would get items to families safely, Pavlov said.
"It's very important that we adhere to COVID (protocol), in collecting and distributing the items donated," she said. "We did consult with the Edmonton Santas Anonymous group. We were on the right track. We just wanted to confirm we were doing this properly. It was a learning experience."
Chorley some items, including fabric, plush items, plastics and toys have to be put in isolation to discourage COVID transmission. For example, she said, plastic items have to sit for about 72 hours and plush items for a week, which complicates packaging them.
Fortunately, with a list of families in the program already started, she and Pavlov can organize items by group.
Some of the usually-held get-togethers have been cancelled, including Skate with Santa at Mildred Lake, and a photo opportunity with Santa at Bearhill Lodge.
Pavlov said, “With the (allowable) gathering of 10, how are you going to restart the number of families? Pieces of the puzzle just don't come together."
But other plans are coming together: the Mitten Line fundraiser at TGP, for example.
At the grocery store, mittens are available at the cash registers with values of $10, $20, $50 and $100 with proceeds going to Santas Anonymous.
"Some people have already purchased mittens and we're excited about that,” Pavlov said.
Shoppers at TGP can also designate a portion of the money paid for groceries to the campaign at the time of purchase.
Then there's The Snowball Fight.
"We cut out a quantity of snowballs and we are giving them to banks specifically, and encouraging them to compete against others - a friendly competition," Pavlov said. "We're asking them to be creative with their displays."
Folks can purchase a snowball for whatever amount they choose, with proceeds going to Santas Anonymous.
The pastry team at Jasper Park Lodge has also added to the festive mix of fundraisers.
Pavlov said they created an “absolutely unbelievable” gingerbread cottage to be raffled off.
The detail in the house is something to behold - there are books on bookshelves, the inside of the log cabin lights up, and there's a pond outside with cattails along the shore.
“It's big and so beautiful," Pavlov said.
The masterpiece is on display at the Santas Anonymous Facebook page and tickets can be purchased at $5 apiece from Jasper Community Team Society board members.
"As has been the tradition since Santa's Anonymous started," Pavlov noted, "there have been collection boxes placed throughout town. Anything you want to support Santas Anonymous with can be done through donations - toys, toques, mitts."
Sites include Pharmasave, IDA Rx Drug Mart, Jasper General Store, Ransom, the Jasper Library and Nesters Market.
Pavlov said the Chamber will also accept donations at Robson House.
"Give us a call and we'll grab it (where it has been safely left),” she said. “I'd also encourage people to bring gift cards.”
Another way to donate in a contactless way is via e-transfer to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The winning ticket for the gingerbread house will be drawn on Dec. 17. Proceeds from the Snowball Fight and Mitten Line fundraisers will be announced on Dec. 22.
Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh