Powell River & District Christmas Cheer Committee officially began in 1948 when a like-minded group of citizens came together to support families in need. Since 1984, when the committee applied for its charitable status, tax receipts have been offered for donations over $20.
Historically, the group gathered to build food baskets and toys for families, explains Lorelei Guthrie, president of the committee. However, with the onset of COVID-19, that changed dramatically. For the last two years, grocery gift cards and gift certificates to Powell River Town Centre (PRTC) were offered.
“The purpose of what we do is to be able to provide Christmas hampers to families in need at Christmas time,” says Lorelei.
Christmas Cheer has two programs: a general hamper program, open to families and single seniors who qualify, and its adopt-a-family program, where businesses or families in the community step forward and literally adopt a family by funding their Christmas directly.
“As a community, we must help each other,” adds Lorelei. “This committee has been around since 1948, when the needs were heavy, just after the war. It has continued, so that tells us that there’s still this striving need within the community.”
Adopt-a-family matches a sponsor with a family based on how many family members they want to sponsor. A family hamper can be anywhere from $350 to $600.
Christmas Cheer will set the parties up to communicate needs and wants such as pyjamas, socks, toys and other interests. And it comes with a food hamper; the sponsor will ask what they want for Christmas dinner and whether the family prefers gift cards or to have the sponsor shop for them.
“It’s a really fantastic program,” says Lorelei. “We get many families who step up to do that. And the family that’s the recipient, they just get spoiled. It’s a wonderful gift.”
Applications for the general hamper program go out on November 12; applications can be dropped off at the PRTC administration office. To qualify, the deadline is November 30, which gives enough time for the sponsor family to connect and go shopping.
Christmas Cheer’s general hamper family program is open to all families who qualify and single seniors.
“The food hampers would have had a couple of hundred dollars worth of food in cardboard boxes that were dutifully delivered to the receiving family,” adds Lorelei. “Fast forward to COVID, we couldn’t get together as a group to greet our families to do that.”
She says the gift cards make sense with the evolution of grocery delivery and online shopping over the past three years. Hampers now include grocery gift cards and Powell River Town Centre gift cards, so the children can go and shop for their Christmas gifts.
Disbursement for the general hamper program takes place on December 11.
The Christmas cheer committee is looking for volunteers to fill three roles: secretary, donations coordinator and next year’s treasurer. These positions will take an average of two hours per month during October and November, and then approximately four to six hours during the first two weeks of December.
Anyone interested in making a difference in the community can email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com for more information.
Families or businesses interested in adopting a family this Christmas (at least 30 families are expected to be in need of sponsorship) can reach out via the same contact emails.
“It’s heartwarming; that is certainly something I’ve heard quite frequently,” says Lorelei. “It feels good to give back, and the community connectedness is stronger for it.
“I’m in my third year, and still overwhelmed with the generosity that comes forward at that time of year. But on the same note, I just don’t think everybody knows who we are. And there’s more to be done.”
Powell River & District Christmas Cheer Committee is currently accepting cash donations for the general hamper program by e-transfer to firstname.lastname@example.org.