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Christmas Cheer Board director celebrates 50 years with 100-year-old organization

Kai Madsen of the Christmas Cheer Board.
Kai Madsen of the Christmas Cheer Board. Facebook / Brenda Bourns

A Winnipeg gift-giving institution is celebrating its 100th anniversary this winter, and the longtime face of the organization is celebrating a milestone of his own.

Kai Madsen, executive director of the Christmas Cheer Board, is being recognized by the province Tuesday evening for his 50th anniversary with the organization, which gives out tens of thousands of hampers to needy Winnipeggers each year.

Madsen told 680 CJOB that he’s more interested in the Cheer Board’s milestone being honoured than his own – and that the organization he’s helmed for a half-century is still doing important work in the city after initially forming in the aftermath of the First World War.

READ MORE: Winnipeg charity celebrating 99 years of cheer, seeking helping hands

“The plan was, and still is in many ways, that we’d look after needy families at Christmas time,” he said.

“Specifically, back to the start when the churches got involved, there was a focus somewhat on the fact that there were a lot of soldiers who died in the war, so the churches undertook to look after the widows and orphans who went on with their lives and needed help.”

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Madsen said that while the numbers appear to have levelled off, to some degree, in recent years, he expects there will always be a need in Winnipeg – and a Cheer Board to fill it.

“It really hasn’t dramatically changed. We take applications and start the first day after Remembrance Day, appropriately.

“We proceed to bring in the school kids, and they pack all the hampers, and then we depend on Winnipeggers to deliver these hampers.”

Last holiday season, the Cheer Board had more than 17,000 applications for hampers – all of which are properly vetted to make sure families’ needs are addressed.

While Madsen, for now, is happy still working 50 years into his cheerboard career, he said he expects that he’ll eventually decide to put his feet up and look back at all he’s accomplished.

“What a wonderful stretch of my life, eh?”

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WATCH: ‘It’s this little miracle every year’: Winnipeg’s Christmas Cheer Board a labour of love
‘It’s this little miracle every year’: Winnipeg’s Christmas Cheer Board a labour of love
‘It’s this little miracle every year’: Winnipeg’s Christmas Cheer Board a labour of love