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Christmas hamper program at St. Albert church suspended: ‘The need is higher’

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WATCH: A St. Albert church is asking for donations after it was forced to suspend its hamper program because of lack of funds. Sarah Komadina has more – Oct 26, 2019

Red Willow Community Church in St. Albert, Alta., started providing Christmas hampers to families five years ago.

Each family receives a hamper filled with a gift per child, a family game, a box of chocolates or cookies and a gift card to get groceries.

This year, however, the program was suspended. One of the organizers, Leslie Benson, said it’s because of the economic downturn in Alberta, and they haven’t received the donations needed to move forward.

Benson said there is still hope, but the church needs to raise $25,000 by the end of November.

READ MORE: Not-so-secret Santa: Selkirk man steps in to save Christmas hamper program

“We don’t want to get rid of it. We’re just trying to make an effort to ask people to please help and give to these families that are really struggling at Christmas time,” Benson said.

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“The need is higher. It has definitely increased over the years. It started out at 30; last year we did 99.”

“From the very beginning, we had enough money to do a small amount, and then every year, we would leave some money in the account so that there was seed money for the next year,” said church treasurer Marian Rochford.

READ MORE: Calgary’s Salvation Army turns away parents due to shortage of toy donations

Alberta’s economic situation, however, has changed that.

“Because of the economy, it hit us last year. Even the giving across the church was down,” Rochford said.

“So we had to spend everything, even the seed money we would normally carry over for the next year, so the account went down to zero last year.”

Benson and Rochford hope by speaking out, other members in the community will be able to step up and donate money so they can make hampers again this year.

There are other hamper programs in the St. Albert area asking for donations. The St. Albert Kinettes make 300 hampers a year and need donations in the form of cash, gift cards and toys.