There are Santa’s helpers, and then there’s the Kinette Club of St. Albert – true Christmas elves who provide a festive holiday for less fortunate St. Albert residents with the annual Christmas hamper campaign – now 46 years old and counting.
You’ve likely seen the red bins set up at schools, businesses and at St. Albert Centre, collecting non-perishable food and new, unwrapped toys. While these boxes will take donations through Dec. 12, the hamper campaign gets a huge boost Dec. 1 with the high-visibility Fill-a-Bus event.
And talk about Santa’s helpers. For 11 years, Dave and Barb Stevenson have steered Fill-a-Bus, recruiting family members and other bus drivers to collect food, toy and cash donations on a one-day blitz every December. The event is co-sponsored by St. Albert Transit, and will see buses posted at both Safeway stores, Canadian Tire, both Save on Foods, Walmart, Superstore and Sobeys, with hopes there will be enough toys and food to fill every seat on every bus.
“Over the years, people give and give, and it all stays in St. Albert. Christmas can be so stressful – if there’s an illness or job loss – it can happen to anyone. This event really brings home how darned blessed we are,” said Barb.
Cash and cheques are accepted on the Fill-a-Bus, but monetary donations are also welcomed at Fire Hall No. 3 on Giroux Road. Organizers have a goal of $45,000 in cash and gift cards to make sure every hamper has food staples and gifts for the kids.
As donations start to gather, the 13 dedicated women of the St. Albert Kinette club kick into high gear. The group will assemble and deliver hampers, which may reach around 400 this year, at the greenhouse space donated by Hole’s and the Enjoy Centre. Now through delivery time, volunteers will sort, pack and prepare hampers, and help is needed to get the job done. Those interested can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 780-702-9998.
“Our goal is to provide a Christmas dinner and two or three weeks worth of food,” explained Sharon Gregresh, campaign co-chair. “And we’re desperately short of gifts for teens – so gift cards, movie or West Ed Mall passes, are all very welcome.”
While there’s a co-ordinated effort with the local food bank and Salvation Army for hamper recipient referrals, donations are completely separate: only food and toys placed in the red bins will go to the Kinette hamper campaign.
Hamper co-chair Julie DeMott also provides schools and businesses a list of much-needed foods: cereal, canned meats, soups, fruits and vegetables, peanut butter, coffee, and oft-forgotten supplies like diapers, toothbrushes and paste, toilet paper and shampoo. The Kinettes and generous business sponsors cover the basics in each hamper: turkey, ham, potatoes, carrots, cheese, margarine, flour, sugar, buns, frozen vegetables and oranges.
“People help however they can, and every year we’re touched by the generosity of our residents,” said Gregresh. “It will make the homes of the less fortunate families in St. Albert bright and warm this Christmas season.”