June 18th, 2024

Multi-agency Christmas Hope campaign a success

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on January 12, 2022.

Submitted photo Volunteers build Christmas hampers to be distributed as part of the 2021 Christmas Hope campaign at the Interfaith Food Bank.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

A lot can be accomplished when a community comes together to help those in need, and thanks to the generosity of many, thousands were able to enjoy Christmas last year.
The Christmas Hope campaign served over 5,000 babies, children, and teens, and almost 2,500 adults this year. Which is more than 7,500 individuals in Lethbridge and area helped in 2021.
A commitment to help families continues to inspire the Christmas Hope campaign agencies after 15 years of service. The Interfaith Food Bank, Shop of Wonders, Salvation Army, Lethbridge Food Bank, Volunteer Lethbridge, and Angel Tree helped lighten the burden of financial stress and brought the magic of Christmas to many.
“The Christmas Hope is really good for us as a food bank, specifically to make sure we only do food, as in the past we had to give gifts and food which is hard for us to do,” said Mac Nichol, executive director for the Lethbridge Food Bank.
Nichol explained they are pretty good at giving food to the people that need it, but giving gifts is a lot harder to do.
“The Christmas Hope campaign allows us to do what we are good at,” said Nichol.
Nichol said this year they saw a lot of people access hampers and they were able to provide them with food from all the food banks in Lethbridge, to make sure they were getting what they needed.
“Our biggest challenge this year was not so much on food or finances but on gifts for the children,” said Danielle McIntyre, executive director for the Interfaith Food Bank. “So several of our toy distribution partners struggled to make sure that they had enough supplies to be able to cover for every child that needed a gift, but somehow in true Lethbridge fashion, community came through and every household that came looking for help was able to get the support that they needed.”
As many families continue to experience the economic fallout caused by the global pandemic, several families were facing unemployment and financial hardships over the holiday season and were struggling to put gifts under the tree.
The campaign saw an increase of 1764 individuals accessing their services.
“It was a little bit harder for the organizations this year because more people means more spending, but we did see our community come back out and support us for that. We saw the Angel Tree having more clients than they ever had access their program, and our community coming out to make sure that those people can still receive gifts,” said Nichol.
The Christmas Hope campaign was originally between the Lethbridge Food Bank, the Interfaith Food Bank and Salvation Army. A couple of years ago they added MyCityCare and Angel Tree and in 2021 they added Volunteer Lethbridge as a partner.
“It was very helpful in terms of recruiting volunteers, as it took over 1000 volunteers to make this happen, and over 4500 hours of volunteer time to make sure every family received the assistance they needed,” said McIntyre regarding the addition of Volunteer Lethbridge as a partner.
McIntyre said the volunteer jobs ranged from building hampers, to stocking shelves, to building toy bundles or greeting guests and taking registrations.
“We needed a ton of people to make it all come together and we couldn’t do it without the volunteers,” said McIntyre.
But as wonderful as the help they received from the Christmas Hope campaign was, support is needed throughout the year and McIntyre said people tend to think about food banks only from Thanksgiving until Christmas.
“And then they forget about us for the rest of the year, so we capitalize on the season of giving and then what comes in during that season of giving, is how we decide what we are going to be able to offer for the community in the months to come,” said McIntyre.
McIntyre said that most food banks run in the red from January all the way through until October, and then they try to tie in their fundraisers throughout the year to try to keep restocked when it starts to get low.
“We don’t see many people coming to donate most of January and February, in March it picks up again a little bit and come the summer time we have a lot more community events so we have a little bit more engagement there, but we really don’t recruit the majority of our support until we hit that season of giving again between Thanksgiving and Christmas,” said McIntyre.
She said that a lot of the money that comes in during the Christmas period will be used to make future purchases of food moving forward and for operational costs.
“Something that we try to highlight on our post campaign announcement is that people have to eat every day not just at Christmas time, so we really encourage people to not forget about us now that Christmas is over,” said McIntyre.

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