The charity’s Feed-A-Family program needs more sponsors. “(It hasn’t felt) enough like Christmas,” said program co-ordinator Pat McBeth.
“Even though we have a lot of applications because people are in need, we don’t have a lot of sponsors coming through yet, and we’d really like to get more.”
Sponsors include individuals, families, teams, community groups and businesses who are matched with, and build a hamper for, a Winnipeg family.
The cheer board delivered more than 18,000 hampers in 2022, thanks in large part to the nearly 2,000 sponsors who stepped up. It expects to deliver more than 19,000 care packages this year, an increasingly difficult task with little more than 1,300 sponsors currently on board.
“I’m thinking because it doesn’t look like Christmas, they’re not there yet,” McBeth said. “People aren’t thinking about winter and Christmas at the moment so, hopefully, the sponsors will figure it out — maybe after Black Friday.”
Carol Frampton has always been ahead of the game since she started sponsoring the Feed-A-Family program 10 years ago. She first assembled hampers through work but has added sponsorship groups through her rugby team, yoga group and book club. She’s recruited 60 people in total to help recruit goods, assemble and deliver hampers.
“We all have so much and we know they don’t. I guess with my job (as a physiotherapist), I actually visit people in their homes and I see the situations people live in,” Frampton said. “It’s just, we see the need and we have so much. Frankly, the giver gets as much out of it as the (families) so definitely it lifts our spirits at work.
“It’s developed a real sense of community at work, for sure. Everybody gets excited about who’s the family this year. So it’s good all around.”
Frampton organizes one hamper per group and requests a large family (seven to 10 people) to receive a big boost during the holiday season. Each hamper is catered to a family’s food preferences and can include books and even winter gear.
“They give us the phone numbers so… I always phone (the family) and we try to personalize it as much as we can. So, I’ll make sure if they’re Muslim, they don’t get pork products or if they’re vegetarian, we kind of play with the hamper menu,” Frampton said.
The St. Gianni Beretta Molla Roman Catholic Church, which is in its sixth year of sponsorship, plans to assemble and deliver 15 hampers.
“In our community, there’s a very strong belief that you need to give,” said Rick Steinke, head organizer of hampers at the church in southwest Winnipeg. “Take a Winston Churchill quote: ‘We make a living by what we get and a life by what we give.’ Certainly, part of the faith is that charity and helping others in your community — it’s important to do that. I think Christmas is a time that really reminds us of that.”
The church, which launched its drive after its Remembrance Day mass, will assemble its hampers so they are ready to be delivered following the Dec. 17 service.
“Last year, we did 12. This year, we’re doing 15 and we’re trying to increase it. If we can do 15, next year I’m sure we’ll look at trying to increase it again because we know the need is out there,” Steinke said. “You go to the grocery store just like I do, we all know it’s not easy and the need is strong.”
When the cheer board opened its phone lines on Nov. 3, it was inundated with calls. The charity received 30,000 phone call attempts.
McBeth said demand has ceased to slow down and that sponsors remain the organization’s No. 1 priority as it prepares to open for hamper pickups on Dec. 5.
“We really would like to see more companies, organizations and individuals fill out our sponsor request form. We can match them with families as quickly as possible — we do it within a day or two — and then they can get the great feeling of going out there, making a hamper and delivering it,” McBeth said.
Interested sponsors can complete the registration form online at christmascheerboard.ca or call 204-989-5680.