Medicine Hat Women’s Shelter Society’s annual Christmas Hamper Program began Friday and will be running through Dec. 17.
Organizers are asking for donations of new toys and gifts for all ages, as well as gift cards, which will then be distributed to families in need throughout the community.
“It’s about making sure that those accessing our services don’t miss out on Christmas,” Peggy Revell, community education and awareness co-ordinator at MHWSS, told the News.
“Christmas is supposed to be a fun, joyful time, but when we have clients arriving in the shelter, sometimes they arrive with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. That’s hard any time of the year, but especially at Christmas, especially for children.”
The program is open to all clients of MHWSS, including outreach clients.
“That’s really hard and sometimes there’s a lot of financial difficulties as you rebuild your life after leaving an abusive situation, so it’s about making sure they don’t have to choose between rent and their kids having something under the tree,” she said.
The Christmas Hamper Program used to be called Adopt a Family.
“Previously we ran it (by) matching donors to families,” said Revell. “We had to adjust that last year due to COVID.”
Organizers now gather the donated items in one room then invite clients to select which items best meet the needs of their family.
“We tried that out last year and it turned out really well. We had a lot of amazing feedback from the clients,” Revell said. “It’s empowering for them to be able to choose the items that may fit best with their child.”
Parents will also receive a gift and gift cards to assist with the cost of Christmas dinner.
Since its creation 20 years ago, the program has served 4,361 adults and children in Medicine Hat. MHWSS reports that last year, 110 adults and 154 children accessed the program.
Anyone looking to donate, can drop off unwrapped items at Sun Valley Honda or Davis GMC Buick in Medicine Hat from now until Dec. 17.
“We also are accepting financial donations towards the program, so if we see there’s a gap … we can adjust and make sure those items are there,” said Revell.
Financial donations can be made online or by cheque.
KENDALL KIN, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News