With the giving season upon us, the City of Chestermere anticipates residents will donate generously to support Gifts of Kindness, a year-round fundraising campaign that helps individuals and families in Chestermere and southeast Rocky View County (RVC).
“We use the funds to provide help to individuals and families…mostly in terms of basic needs,” said Community Wellness Facilitator Nicole Madamesila. “So, things like damage deposits, utilities, rental arrears, medication, supporting women in crisis, subsidizing membership fees for local associations, sometimes groceries.”
Gifts of Kindness, formerly known as Christmas with Dignity, began in 2007. Madamesila said the name was changed to modernize the program and to signal its year-long availability. Having “Christmas” in the name, she said, caused some confusion, leading people to believe the campaign was only active during the holiday season.
“Although we’ve changed the name, what we do with the funds has not changed,” she said.
Donations are accepted year-round and gift cards or cash gifts are accepted at City Hall, she added, with donations of $20 or more are eligible for a tax receipt.
While Gifts of Kindness funds are used for several programs throughout the year, donations made in December will likely support two programs specific to the holiday season: Christmas hampers and holiday packs.
The programs are fairly similar, Madamesila said. The City works with partner organizations, including the Chestermere Food Bank, Southeast Rocky View Food Bank, Pratts Food Service Alberta and May’s Toybank, to provide Christmas hampers – comprised of food items and gift cards to assemble a traditional Christmas dinner.
By providing gift cards, the holiday packs cater to people celebrating traditions other than Christmas, according to Madamesila, as recipients can use them to purchase foods that are appropriate to their specific holidays.
Meanwhile, the City will also be distributing gift cards to families in need throughout the holiday season, independent of the hampers and holiday packs.
“We’re collecting gift cards that we are, hopefully, able to provide to our families,” Madamesila said. “Gift cards typically are [for] No Frills or Walmart, gas stations, Dollarama.”
A majority of fundraising for Gifts of Kindness occurs during the holiday season as well, she said, through events like the Kids’ Holiday Store and the inaugural Santa Fun Run, both taking place Dec. 14. The City is encouraging residents to register for the run online by searching “Santa Fun Run” on eventbrite.ca by Dec. 6 to ensure the event can go forward, Madamesila said. The City is also seeking volunteers for the Kids’ Holiday Store – more information can be found on chestermere.ca
Madamesila said there are always families in the community in need of assistance – donating to Gifts of Kindness is one way for area residents to ensure the needs of their neighbours are met.
“I think, as a community, we have an opportunity to help many individuals and families experiencing a time of hardship with funds from Gifts of Kindness,” she said. “Of course, the holiday season is one of those times where giving increases, and our community can come together to help support other people who are having a tough go of it at this time.”