Presents are piling up at the Christmas Cheer Board, as volunteers busily wrap gifts and pack hampers for families in need.
This season will mark the Cheer Board’s 99th year in operation, and nearly 18,000 families will receive hampers, according to the Cheer Board’s Executive Director, Kai Madsen.
“It allows people to come together and not only be a community, but have that sense of being a community,” says Madsen about the seasonal charity.
But it’s not all sugar and spice for Madsen and his team. Last year, the Cheer Board finished the holiday season with a $46,000 deficit. It was the largest deficit the charity has ever had.
“We had to do some scrambling to cover it — and we’ve done that. So now we’re wanting to make sure that we don’t have another one this year.”
What some people may not realize is that not all of the items are donated. The Cheer Board buys about 50 per cent of the toys and 50 per cent of the food that goes into the hampers, Madsen says.
Every hamper includes canned goods and packaged food, as well as a turkey or chicken to feed the family, and every child under the age of 14 receives a gift to unwrap on Christmas.
In addition to needing donations of food, gifts and funds, the charity is also in need of volunteer drivers to deliver the hampers.
Long-time Cheer Board volunteer and Assistant Executive Director, Linda Grayston says every year, the charity requires around 4,000 volunteers to help during its two months of operation.
For Grayston, volunteering is a great way to spend her days.
“We have a wonderful, fun atmosphere. Lots of friendships, lots of hugging happens. It’s just great.”
The Cheer Board has moved to a new larger location on St. James Street for the 2018 season. Grayston says anyone who wants to help should just stop in and say hello.