By Dale Woodard on November 26, 2020.
MyCityCare’s Shop of Wonders is ready to spread some cheer over the Christmas season.
The program, which offers a Christmas shopping experience for families in need at no cost for families, has begun setting up in Fire Hall No.1 downtown with plans to be open to the public, starting with appointments Dec. 1 to Dec. 23.
With a year ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to help families struggling to make ends meet is more important than ever.
“It’s been a hard year for people,” said MyCityCare director Jennifer Tribble. “I think more than ever we need support like this in the community. We have an amazing community and amazing agencies in our community who are rallying around and creating the best experience possible for these families and these individuals. It’s the Christmas season and that time where people are looking for hope and little bit of joy and wonder and we’re here to help.”
Last year, Shop of Wonders served just over 900 kids and over 1,400 individuals with the program also serving parents, said Tribble.
Shop of Wonders has at least 200 volunteers for the setup and hundreds of volunteers who help with appointments.
“We just went over 500 kids (Wednesday),” said Tribble. “Last year with 900 kids we’re tracking above schedule, so I think we’ll be over 1,000 kids this year. But that’s not individuals, we’re probably looking at about 2,000 individuals through the program.
Shop of Wonders is a whole family experience, said Tribble.
“We have not only have an area for the parents to pick out something for the kids, but also for the kids to shop for their parents. They get the opportunity to go upstairs with one of our elves and shop through the stuff there and pick out something for mom and dad.”
After operating out of the Long & McQuaid building last year, Shop of Wonders moves back to the firehall where they operated the previous two years.
“The building is red and green, so I don’t know if you can get any more Christmas-y than that,” said Tribble with a chuckle. “It’s pretty ideal. Also, it has lots of space and floor levels. For a COVID situation it’s definitely ideal in terms of that.”
With the pandemic, Shop of Wonders is gearing up for a busier holiday season, said Tribble.
“We’re definitely going over the top and providing that little bit extra just so the families can have that extra support. We’re even going to make it a bit more of an intimate experience for the families. With COVID, we need to make sure everybody feels safe and we’re able to follow all the Alberta Health Service regulations and make sure people feel comfortable accessing that help.”
Those who know somebody who needs help through the program or would like to access the program can register online at http://www.myvictory.ca/shopofwonders/ or phone their downtown office at 403-942-1378.
“You set up an appointment and we schedule the appointments one family every 40 minutes or so,” said Tribble. “You’re not going to come into contact with other people. It’s going to be a very private experience and gives us lots of time to clean and sanitize between each family that comes through.
“You get a stocking stuffer, smaller gifts and then a Santa present per child. The whole experience overall is fun. We decorate top-to-bottom. It’s like you’re walking through Santa’s workshop or an old-fashioned toy shop. It’s kind of fun.”
As of last Thursday, donations have already started to flow in.
“We have donation boxes in the community at several different locations. You can donate directly through those donation bins or you can donate online,” said Tribble.
Toys in all age groups from teens, pre-teens and babies (up to three years old) between $30 and $50 as well as monetary donations are accepted.
“The biggest need we have right now is those Santa-type toy gift items,” said Tribble. “We definitely have gaps we see in the teens and it’s still a gap this year, so teen gifts, for sure, that pre-teen age from 11-15 age group as well as babies this year. We’re kind of seeing a gap in the zero-to-twos as well.”
There are also MyCityCare’s Shop of Wonders facilities in Okotoks, Claresholm and Taber and can be accessed through the website.
For more information visit, MyCityCare’s Facebook page.
Follow @DWoodardHerald on Twitter