With the Christmas season right around the corner, most Albertans are currently in the process of hitting the malls and grocery stores to stock up on food and purchase gifts for the yuletide, however the same cannot be said of a multitude of others who, for one reason or another, wouldn’t be enjoying the season nearly as much as others.
But thanks to a special group of dedicated volunteers in the Winfield-Buck Lake-Alder Flats area, all residents, including the less-fortunate will have the opportunity of enjoying Christmas in style.
For the tenth year in a row, the Santa’s Anonymous group will be spreading plenty of joy throughout the northern areas with substantial food hampers and even gifts for everyone in the family.
“It is so wonderful to see communities come together. We know that it sure brings a lot of smiles and happiness to quite a number of people,” said Coordinator Lois Gilbertson. “Men, women and children all receive gifts as well as the food hampers. According to the delivery guys, the looks on some of the faces really make it all very worthwhile. It sure would be very lonely to be all on your own without even a nice dinner Christmas day. Most of us could not even imagine that.”
She said the food and gift hampers are customized to meet the needs of the particular family with the food hampers usually containing items such as cereal, canned fruit and vegetables, soup, pasta and sauce, pancake mix complete with syrup and even some canned meat.
As for the big meal of the season, the group has taken care of that as well with a turkey, a chicken or ham, fresh buns with margarine, potatoes and even Christmas oranges. They’ve also thought of the days and weeks following Christmas as well by adding staples such as flour, sugar, and coffee or tea.
And as eager as the members of Santa’s Anonymous are to help out their neighbours in their time of need, Gilbertson said they’d much prefer not to have to help out at all.
“We have increased and fluctuated within about five families over the past 10 years. We lose some and then gain others but it’s always so great to hear that they do not need our services this year,” she said adding that for some, circumstances beyond their control have forced them to seek help. “Definitely some people slip through the cracks. Whether it’s an illness, or they’re not quite at the age to receive security checks or losing their job a couple of months before Christmas, who are we to judge?”
As with similar organizations, recipients are referred in a number of different ways including self-referrals, social agencies and churches, but it goes well beyond that point. Local businesses and schools are also contributing by collecting non-perishable food, new toys and cash donations making the process a truly ‘made at home’ solution, even it it’s only for a few days or weeks. In addition, all the hampers, which amount to between 20 and 30, stay in the immediate area of Winfield, Buck Lake and Alder Flats.
“I am very proud of all folks that support the program that we have in our communities. People seem to be very willing to help out neighbours at this time of year,” Gilbertson said adding that no matter the demand, Santa’s Anonymous will deliver. “No we’ve never come up short but sometimes it has come down to the wire. The one thing about this – it is a last minute thing in a lot of cases. But knowing that all the donations stay in the local areas is a big reason why people are so generous.”
Residents in the Winfield, Buck Lake and Alder Flats area who are aware of someone or a family who could use a little help this Christmas season, or are interested in contributing to the cause, are asked to contact Gilbertson at 780-682-2388.