For the past five years, MyCityCare has been running its Shop of Wonders programs for less fortunate families in southern Alberta.
It expanded operations from serving the Lethbridge community to Taber, Claresholm and Okotoks, serving hundreds or thousands of people each year.
Jennifer Tribble, director for MyCityCare, says the goal of the program is to provide a fun, confidential shopping experience for families who can’t afford to provide gifts during the holidays. The program evolved from putting together pre-made bundles to allowing families to shop for themselves.
This year, Lethbridge Shop of Wonders is located inside the old Fire Hall No. 1 at 402 2 Ave S.
Shop of Wonders has grown quite steadily over the years, with approximately 900 children and 500 adults benefitting from the program in 2019.
Due to added financial struggles brought on by COVID-19 unemployment, Tribble expects this year won’t be an exception — although she admits it’s been hard to predict.
“I do think we will see an increase in our numbers.
“We’re projecting that we’ll be around 1,000 kids this year,” she said. “We don’t really know what to expect but we do know that we’re going to provide for as many as we can.”
Added COVID-19 screening and procedures are in place, although the experience won’t be much different, as the program has always run by appointment only.
Volunteer numbers have been reduced, but Tribble says they don’t have to worry about having too many people in the building due to the nature of the process.
Heather Lee is in her first year of volunteering with the Shop of Wonders and has a personal connection to the project.
“We had a child that was diagnosed with a medical issue and things kind of went really sideways at Christmas,” she said. “It was last minute and we really needed help.”
Lee says she felt very welcomed when she entered the building and hopes families realize they can participate without fear of judgement.
“It’s really hard, as a parent, to ask for help,” she said.
“There’s lots of parents out there that are going to struggle with asking for help and this takes that away.”
MyCityCare is also part of this year’s Christmas Hope campaign, joining forces with other local initiatives including the Lethbridge Food Bank, Interfaith Food Bank, Salvation Army and Lethbridge Family Services.
To register at any of the four Shop of Wonders locations, or to donate, visit the website.