‘This year, there’s a lot of need’: Edmonton Holiday Hamper program only halfway to volunteer goal

Click to play video 'Holiday Hamper team ready to help Edmontonians in 2019 holiday season' Holiday Hamper team ready to help Edmontonians in 2019 holiday season
WATCH ABOVE: A local charity that provides food hampers to Edmonton families in need is gearing up for the 2019 holiday season.

An Edmonton charity is falling behind with its volunteer rooster this Christmas season.

The Holiday Hamper Foundation encourages families to become “hamper elves”, with each volunteer family assigned to another in need. The hamper elves then shop for personalized items to create a festive meal as well as small gifts for the kids.

“To actually meet the family and know where your giving is going is a really great experience,” said Chris Curtola from the Holiday Hamper Foundation.

“We all get to hand-deliver that hamper and change somebody’s Christmas,” said Curtola.

For 2019, the organization has a goal of helping out 1000 Edmonton families. But for that, they need 1000 volunteer groups — but so far only have 500 signed up, Curtola said.

“This year, there’s a lot of need. Obviously the economy isn’t great in Edmonton.”

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The organization is hoping that Edmontonians will rally to help — and this year it will also be giving out tax receipts for cash donations, which are mainly used to buy turkeys for the hampers.

This marks the program’s 16th year.

“We started off with one school, and now we’re actually at almost 40 inner-city schools,” said Curtola.

Click to play video 'Volunteers needed for the 2018 JCI Holiday Hampers Program' Volunteers needed for the 2018 JCI Holiday Hampers Program
Volunteers needed for the 2018 JCI Holiday Hampers Program

Registered dietitian Emily Mardell, who also does marketing for the Holiday Hamper program, said she became involved after realizing the example it sets for her children.

“We really encourage everyone to really put in their hamper what they would put on their holiday table,” Mardell said. “That way, we know that we’re not just delivering food, we’re delivering food in a really dignified way.”

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Mardell’s most-suggested items for the hampers are fresh, frozen and canned vegetables.

Local farmers and growers also donate vegetables like potatoes and carrots to be added to the hampers.

Edmontonians can sign up to become hamper elves, or to give a donation at the Holiday Hamper website.

The current cutoff for volunteer signup is Dec. 1, with delivery day set for Dec. 14.