Bell confirmed as permanent Cheer Board executive director


The Christmas Cheer Board today announced that Shawna Bell has been made permanent executive director of the Winnipeg charity, removing the interim tag from her title.


Bell had served as interim executive director of the CCB during the 2021 Christmas season and before that as board chair. She brings a wealth of experience and energy to the position in a time when the board needs it most. In short, the choice was natural.


All things changed for the organization during Bell’s ‘interim’ tenure. Its iconic executive Kai Madsen retired and then passed away later in the year, and the board had to leave its home on St. James St. Did we mention that there was a Pandemic on as well which resulted in the difficult decision to distribute food vouchers and toys instead of the usual hampers?


The board found a temporary home at 1081 Ellice Ave. for the ’21 season and the show did go on, thanks in no small part to Bell’s dedicated leadership.


“From finding a temporary home from which to deliver Cheer Board packages, introducing new technology and dealing with hurdles attributed to COVID, Shawna was able to lead the organization successfully through this past Christmas season,” says current board chair Jackie Britton. “It truly is a testament to her abilities!”


A 48-year-old mother of two and a life-long Winnipegger, Bell and the Cheer Board have faced, and are facing, significant challenges as the calendar turns and the board heads into its 103rd year of existence.


The CCB has launched a search for a new home but Its requirements are not easily met. It needs thousands of square feet of space (about 40,000) to produce hampers during a three-month period in November/January.


But its space requirements shrink significantly during the rest of the calendar year. The board knows this and is ready to consider creative solutions with landlords and with partners who face a similar set of requirements.


“… We have reached out to members of the community and municipal government to explore options,” says Bell. “Our need for space is essential to return to packing and delivering food hampers to families in need.”


“This is the absolute best way we can support people around the holiday season. We are looking for community-focused partners and hope to have an update in early spring on our search.”


Bell is only the third executive director of the Cheer Board in the ‘modern’ era, following in the footsteps of Byrdye Beckel and Madsen. Despite the fact that the institution is more than 100 years old, Bell says it needs to have an ear to the needs of the community.


“Over that century, Winnipeg has changed in so many ways. Now is the time to reach out to the community to listen and learn,” she says. “We want to make sure that the support we provide makes sense, and where it doesn’t, we'll take that feedback and work to improve on our service delivery.


“We are a grassroots organization and we need to support the community for as long as the community needs us.”


The choice of Bell to lead the Cheer Board into the future seemed right in so many ways.


“I have always loved the work of the Christmas Cheer Board and hearing the stories of people who have volunteered with us and those who have received support from us in the past,”  Bell says. “This is a great organization. Let's work together to make it better!”


For information, please contact Britton at 204-792-5331 or; or Bell at 204-981-8705 or