Raising cheer during the Holidays
The Christmas Cheer Board has been around for almost 100 years, helping families in need during the holiday season. Last year alone, they sent out 19,502 hampers to families around Winnipeg. The Forks Market runs the Christmas Cheer Board’s annual holiday season campaign, Castle of Toys. It is in its eleventh year of operation.
Christina Fehr, a mother of three, donates every year at The Forks.
“You shop for your kids already. What are one or two more gifts?” Fehr said. “I like showing my kids that Christmas is not all about getting presents. You have to give back too.”
Castle of Toys is a collection of new and unwrapped toys for children between 8 and 14 years old. After toys are donated, they are brought back to the Christmas Cheer Board warehouse where they are checked for warnings, safety risks and gauged for age appropriateness. Volunteers and Christmas Cheer Board workers then wrap them, and school kids from all over the city are brought in to do the final packaging.
“They can do this job like you wouldn’t believe,” said Kai Madsen, Executive Director of the Christmas Cheer Board. Local schools will call to apply and then send the kids to help make a difference for other kids their age.
“So many schools have phoned in this year that there is a waiting list. It’s a mix from elementary through to high schools,” Madsen said. “The young ones that can’t see over the table are given wooden planks to stand on.”
This year, there are close to 5,000 volunteers at the Christmas Cheer Board, between warehouse workers, students who pack hampers, delivery drivers, seniors who knit all year, and community groups and businesses. People from around the province donate 60 per cent of food and toys; the Christmas Cheer Board buys the rest.
“We don’t assume everyone that’s poor wants a hamper. They have to phone and apply and then we’re more than happy to help them out,” said Madsen.
Anyone interested in donating can drop off a toy at The Forks Market throughout the holiday season.