Year over year, marketing manager Katherine Stavropoulos says the Bureau expects a two to three per cent increase in the number of people needing their help. The harsh realities of 2020 blew that up, with 5,500 additional requests coming in.
“We’re definitely seeing an increase of at least 15 per cent overall — so that means 45,000 Edmontonians in need this holiday season,” she said.
That demand is unprecedented. And COVID-19 hasn’t just increased demand, it’s also made fundraising more challenging.
“All of our live events have been cancelled, so really we’re asking people to go online and donate at ChristmasBureau.ca or they can call us at 780-421-XMAS (9627),” Stavropoulos said.
At the same time, she recognizes the pandemic has put stress on donors as well.
“Maybe in past years you’ve been able to donate more and you can’t as much this year — or you can’t at all. We understand, but truly, every dollar counts this year.”
The 2020 goal for the Christmas Bureau’s food program is $1.4 million, and only 15 per cent of that has been raised so far.
Adopt-A-Teen is also struggling. It requires $300,000 and has only received about 18 per cent to date.
That program started in 1999, and makes sure kids between 13 and 17 aren’t left out when it comes to Christmas presents. Instead of a toy, they get gift certificates.
“They can spend it on themselves, however, we hear a lot of stories about them going and buying presents for siblings, or something for the home,” Stavropoulos said.
Another issue Stavropoulos said they’re dealing with is the cancellation of their normal walk-in days due to COVID-19. Families are asked to register in advance.
“That has just created very, very busy phone lines.”
Alberta recorded 1,854 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, breaking another daily infection record.