It's that time of year again. When visions of sugar plums start dancing in young people's heads, thoughts of the Christmas turkey dinner starts mouths watering, and the anticipation of all the gifts under the tree waiting to be opened create an anticipation almost unbearable for everyone young and old alike.
Sadly, this idyllic version of Christmas is far from the reality a lot of people will come face to face with this festive season. In a region known for it's bounty, not everyone is quite so lucky. Sometimes due to unforeseen health problems that suddenly crop up, sometimes an unexpected downsizing at work, many different issues can play a part in shattering the Christmas idyl, and as everyone knows, life does not always go according to plan. So this is where the Leduc Christmas Elves step in.
Linda Bernicki, the Community Support Coordinator for FCSS at Leduc County, oversees this valuable program. "Last year we put together 150 Christmas hampers for families that just needed an extra bit of help at this time of year." Shared Linda. "This year we are expecting the demand to increase, so we would certainly appreciate some extra help from the community to give another family a Christmas to remember."
Families in need are identified through some of the FCSS programs, as well as word of mouth from family and friends. "We recognize that self respect is very important for everyone." Said Linda, "So we would never just show up at someone's door with a hamper. There is a process to go through for this program and one of the most important things is for us to check and make sure the recipient of a hamper actually wants one and would accept the gift. Not everyone does."
But for the many families who might depend on the hampers in order to make Christmas happen at all for themselves or their children, donations are gladly accepted at the County Offices in Nisku. "We love receiving non-perishable food or grocery store vouchers." Stated Linda, "But two things we are always in need of are, of course, financial donations, and gifts for teenagers. We receive a lot of toys and gifts for younger children, which we are very thankful for, but gifts for teenagers are always a challenge. Teenagers are a bit harder to buy for but they are still kids and love to receive something under the tree on Christmas morning too. They also tend to remember those gifts for years to come as well."
The hamper donations received at the County offices are distributed throughout Leduc County, including Calmar, Thorsby, Warburg, New Sarepta, and all places in between. The City of Leduc has their own fundraising campaign which leaves the Christmas Elves to concentrate on covering a much larger area.
Delivery dates for the hampers differ in the different communities, but donations should be dropped off no later than December 14th, to ensure inclusion into a hamper.
Linda shared that "It's hard for people to ask for help. So we always treat everyone with the utmost respect, and we just want to let people know their community cares about them."
If you have a larger item that you would like to donate, the Christmas Elves can also coordinate a pick-up at your home. Plus, they are always looking for assistance in distributing the hampers once they have been created. If you have any questions, or would like to donate or volunteer for this much needed service, you can call Linda directly at 780-955-6424.