By Sam Thompson  Global News
Posted November 24, 2023 10:04 am
 Updated November 24, 2023 5:51 pm

The rising cost of living means the holiday season isn’t quite so merry for many families, but Winnipeg’s Christmas Cheer Board is hoping to once again spread some holiday cheer to those in need.

Cheer board executive director Shawna Bell told 680 CJOB’s The Start that although the organization only began taking calls a few weeks ago for this season, the phones have been ringing off the hook — to the point where the cheer board is expecting to deliver upwards of 19,000 hampers this year.

“There’s been such a high demand — ever since our phones started ringing on Nov. 3, they haven’t stopped,” she said.

“We’re trying to process the applications as quickly as we can, because we know the need is so great out there and we want to help.”

0:38‘The need is so great out there’: Christmas Cheer Board ramping up for hamper season
Bell said, as always, the cheer board is looking for volunteers to help deliver the hampers to families that need them, but there are other ways Winnipeggers can get involved with the organization, which has been helping local residents for more than a century.

“So we have this excellent program that we call the Feed-a-Family program, and folks can call in or go online to register to sponsor a family — and basically we give them a list of everything that goes into the hampers.”

Bell said this helps give families even more, as it allows donors to customize hampers to a recipient family’s individual needs.

For families with children, that often means toys — with gifts for the 10- to 14-year-old age group being the hardest to come by.

“If anyone wants to bring down new, unwrapped toys, we’d be more than happy to receive them,” Bell said.

“It’s very exciting for us, and our toy department is so very happy to see toys as they’re coming through.”

Friday and Saturday at St. Vital Centre, the cheer board is recognizing 40 years with the Christmas Miracle donation drive, collecting cash and toy donations for families and kids in need across the city.

Volunteers will be on site accepting donations.

“It’s pretty amazing when this community comes together. Sometimes it seems like it’s difficult and we’re so far apart from each other, but it takes an event like this.

“Our organization sees it each and every year, how people just rally together. There’s nothing that touches me more than watching folks coming through the door, all united in one cause to help their community and the neighbours out, and Winnipeg’s always amazing for it.”