The Airdrie Lioness Club will once again ensure families in need enjoy a happy holiday season through its annual Christmas Hamper Program.
“A hamper is actually a week’s worth of food,” said Lioness president Brandee Scarrott. “That includes fresh produce, and also all the ingredients to make Christmas dinner, as well as gifts for every member of the family.”
According to Scarrott, the club distributes hampers to around 350 families each year. This year’s campaign began Nov. 16, when the club undertook its annual food drive and collected $23,000 worth of non-perishable items for the hampers.
“We purchase just about $13,000 worth of produce when we do the hampers,” she said.
The campaign is now in full swing, and the club continues to accept applications for families who may be in need of a hamper this month. The deadline to apply is Dec. 9.
Recipients are often referred to the club by organizations like the Airdrie Food Bank and Community Links, Scarrott said, but families may also self-refer. Applicants are screened to determine financial need following the food bank’s guidelines, and must be prepared to provide documents including bank statements, utility bills, income verification, loan documentation and rent or mortgage receipts, as well as government ID for all family members.
“You’re only talking to one person. It’s very confidential; nobody else would know your situation,” she said.
The Airdrie Lioness Club is also looking for individuals, families and companies to sponsor families. Sponsors are matched with a family of their choosing, based on family size or budget, Scarrott said. They are then provided a shopping list of food items and gift requests, which sponsors are responsible to purchase and return to the club’s depot at the old fire hall – located at 805 Main Street – by Dec. 12.
The approximate hamper cost for a family of one is $325, according to Scarrott, while a hamper for largest family in the program – a family of eight – will cost about $1,000. The average family of four costs around $500.
This year, each hamper will include a pillow for all family members. According to Scarrott, the Lioness Club chooses one item each year to include in every hamper.
“We actually partnered up with Home Hardware, so they have pillows for sale that are to be donated to us,” she said.
Anyone who wants to assist the hamper program but is unable to sponsor a family can instead make a donation.
“Cash donations are always great, because we do use that towards the fresh produce and then any other of the non-perishable items that we need to purchase if we run out of anything when we’re making the hampers,” Scarrott said.
Gift cards – which often are high on families’ gift lists – toys, gifts and food donations can also be donated.
“We’re usually low on things for seniors and things for teen boys,” Scarrott said.
Donations and completed hampers can be dropped off at the Airdrie Lioness Club’s depot during its regular hours – 1 to 8 p.m. on Dec. 5 to 6 and Dec. 9 to 12, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 7.
“We need the community,” Scarrott said. “We need them to donate, we need them to sponsor.”
Hampers will be anonymously distributed Dec. 15, she added.
The hamper program, Scarrott said, is vital to ensuring all Airdrie residents, regardless of financial situation, can celebrate the holidays. It’s often hard for people to step forward and ask for help when they are in need, she said, so the hamper program shows recipients the community cares and “is behind them.”
“It really makes a big difference to the people that are getting the hampers,” she said. “The gratefulness and just the sheer joy…. A lot of people are just expecting the food or just a little something for their kids, so for them to actually have a Christmas, it’s a little overwhelming but it’s also very rewarding, as well.”
More information on the hamper program can be found at airdrielionessclub.com/hampers