The Royal Canadian Legion No. 271 takes care of its own. Last week it announced the fifth annual Christmas meal hamper campaign for veterans who might not be making or having a Christmas meal.
Unlike the St. Albert Kinette food hamper, which offers three weeks of groceries, the St. Albert Legion prepares a fully cooked turkey meal with all the fixings — stuffing, potatoes, bread, vegetables, cranberry sauce and dessert.
The Legion gives out the meals free to veterans. To cover costs, it is asking for cash donations for approximately 20-plus hampers that cost roughly $50 each. In 2022, the planning committee budgeted for 20 people but received 22 referrals.
“We always get last-minute people. With food prices as high as they are, we could see more. A lot of veterans are on fixed pensions. Anything would help. I wouldn’t be surprised if we get more requests and people reach out,” said Doug Delorme, Legion No. 271 past president and avid hamper campaigner.
Typically, donations arrive from a variety of sources including individuals, businesses and sports teams. To date, the U19 St. Albert Riots Ringette and U15 Grizzly Hockey Team have donated small a portion of the target costs.
“We started around the time COVID began," Delorme said. "A lot of senior members were closed in and couldn’t visit anyone because of restrictions. We realized some members didn’t have family, and since then, we’ve continued."
Unlike traditional food banks that require referrals, the Legion knows its senior members intimately from years of service and shared camaraderie.
“Some are the same age as the rest of us, but they can’t come to Legion," Delorme said. "We know their situations and we reach out. Other times, people offer suggestions. It’s usually word-of-mouth. And sometimes its associate members of veterans – daughters or sons. They’re entitled to a hamper. We’ve also found young veterans who might be on their own and have no plans for Christmas. We’re open to them as well.”
Meals with double portions of food are cooked fresh on Christmas Eve at the legion kitchen and delivered that night by volunteer Elves.
“Most people are so happy to see we’re giving them something. Some seniors are shut-ins and don’t have much contact with other people, and we sit down and have a chit-chat with them. That’s one of the special things about this for us.”
In addition to a hefty meal, organizers also like to add chocolates and candies to the hamper.
“For shut-ins it’s especially nice to have treats for visiting grandchildren. It’s not so much the food. It’s just a way of remembering people and enjoying the festive season.”
Veterans who are eating alone this Christmas or unable to cook a meal and would be pleased to receive a Christmas hamper are asked to call the Legion office at 780-458-3330 or email [email protected].
“Any amount of donation would be greatly appreciated. And any chocolates or candies you can supplement the groceries with are also appreciated.”
Cash donations, debit or treats can be dropped off during regular branch hours Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.