The St. Albert Kinettes: built on a foundation of community care

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Local service group nears 50th anniversary

Most people only know of the St. Albert Kinettes as the group that takes centre stage around this time every year. They have their annual Christmas hamper campaign that offered food and gifts to more than 240 local families in 2011.

The campaign is a massive effort, requiring hundreds of volunteers and thousands of hours of their time. It takes space. It takes energy.

It takes only 14 women to get it done.

“We’re getting back to big numbers,” explained Sharon Gregresh, club member and head of the campaign.

During the recent recession, service clubs faced some tough times but none had a worse prospect than the Kinettes. It hasn’t had robust membership for a long time but things looked dire about five years ago when it was down to just a few members.

“There were five people who kept the Christmas hamper going so that now we can say we have 46 years of the hampers this year. It’s amazing. It’s a huge project.”

The group started in the late 1960s as a response of the city’s growing population, even at the time it was still considered a town. They have always been there, diligently working in the background, making sure that St. Albert is happy and healthy. They follow the organization’s motto to a ‘T’ by serving the community’s greatest need.

That need for many people is affording the basic necessities.

The hamper campaign isn’t ostentatious. It only offers a few weeks of food for these families who are having trouble getting supper on the table. Packages of buns, a bag of sugar, a pound of margarine, a block of cheese, a can of coffee… it’s a modest gift but it’s what so many people need to keep going through tough times.

With the help of sponsors, they even add a sack of potatoes, a whole chicken and a Christmas ham.

When it isn’t the festive season, the club gets into other important community work, raising money that it can then offer to many other local youth, social service and sports groups like Stop Abuse In Families, St. Albert Youth Explosion, the St. Albert Youth Community Centre, Drug Abuse Resistance Education and Crime Stoppers.

Recently, it focused on rebuilding the playground at the Woodlands Water Play Park. No project is too big or too little for this spirited bunch.

“Recently we just did something as small and awesome as the coat check at the Enjoy Centre for Make It Edmonton on the weekend.”

Gregresh said that the group is still small and hasn’t yet met its fundraising goal this year. Despite these harsh realities, it has big plans for the future and wants to expand its numbers so that it can extend its helping hands even further.

“[Our president’s] mandate is to grow the membership… so that we can help more people in the community that need help.”

She said that they always care about families going hungry, not just at Christmas.

The group has regular meetings on the first Tuesday of each month from September through June at the Kinsmen Banquet Centre in Riel Park.

If you are interested in learning more about the St. Albert Kinettes, please call 780-418-3930, check out their website at www.stalbertkinettes.ca or join them on Facebook under ‘St. Albert Kinettes’.

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Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.