Big Brothers Big Sisters of Lacombe and District (BBBS) recently held their Great Big Christmas Dinner and Awards Night to honour the families, volunteers, organizations and businesses that have made 2018 a success.
“Vermilion Energy is our title sponsor and they allow all of our families and volunteers to enjoy a turkey dinner for free,” Executive Director Crystal Zens said. “We also recognized some outstanding organizations, volunteers and businesses that support Big Brothers Big Sisters throughout the year.”
This year BBBS awarded: Travis Marcott as Big Brother of the Year; Sheila McIlwain as Big Sister of the Year; Kristin MacKenzie and Cary Shelstad as In School Mentors of the Year; Skylar Allarie and Emily Mueller as Teen Mentors of the Year; East Side Eatery as Business of the Year and Lacombe Oilmen’s as Organization of the Year.
BBBS also got to honour Andy Pawlyk and his little brother Chris Sellathamby for a 40-year match.
“That match was started in 1978 in Red Deer and the volunteer lives in Lacombe,” Zens said. “He volunteers a lot for our agency and his little brother flew the whole family down from Victoria.
“It goes to show that our program is about long-term impact and long-term difference. It was really neat and we don’t get to do that very often.”
The Christmas dinner started around nine years ago as a modest hot dog lunch with Santa, before growing into the 300 person gala it is now.
The growth of the gala shows the widespread impact that BBBS has in Lacombe.
“We are always very busy and have a lot of stuff going on all the time,” Zens said. “Our 40 Mentors in 40 Days is always very successful and we had 32 new applicants this year which was awesome to get our kids off the wait list and matched.
“A lot of them came to our Christmas dinner for the first time which is special to have.”
Additionally, BBBS is also launching their Festival of Wreaths which allows community members to bid on decorated wreaths and the organization is also looking for donations for their Adopt-a-Family program.
“We match donors to families that fit the given criteria and we have about 20 families matched with local donors to make sure their Christmas is extra special this year,” she said.
If you would like to get involved with BBBS, you can phone 403-782-7870 or contact them through their website or social media.
“December is always our hardest month,” Zens said. “It has the most need and is the least financed so donations are always appreciated. We are a not-for-profit that is a registered charity so we can provide tax receipts.”
With the 30th anniversary of BBBS approaching, Zens is also hoping to expand their ‘Landlord of the Month’ program, which helps them pay down their mortgage.
“We are really hoping to burn the whole mortgage. There is $149,000 still left on the mortgage so we want to get some new initiatives to get rid of the mortgage to serve more kids in more ways,” she said.