The Christmas season can be a magical, but a busy time of year for many. To help further the spirit of Christmas giving, Lacombe and District Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) has launched their annual holiday programs.
FCSS Volunteer and Community Services Coordinator Jan Pocock said all three of the Christmastime programs, Santa’s Anonymous, Fill a Fridge and New Coats for Kids, are run by volunteer hours and generous donations.
“We are so thankful for this community,” she said. “Without it none of these programs could happen.”
Santa’s Anonymous is one of those community programs, that in partnership with Lacombe Kinsmen, brings holiday cheer to children’s faces on Christmas morning.
“We are helping families buy those extra Christmas presents, or all their Christmas presents for Christmas morning,” said Pocock. “It’s filling that magical feeling of Santa.”
How the program works is families apply through FCSS and provide a list of the children in their home, along with their age, size and some wish list items.
Elves at Santa’s Workshop then hand select the gifts for the child and wrap them, ready to go under the Christmas tree. The Kinsmen then pick up the gifts and distribute them to the homes sometime before Christmas.
Due to the amount of applications, toy donations are needed in particular for children ages eight and up. Some ideas for donation items could be Lego, games, headphones, electronics or gift certificates.
“It’s all very basic stuff,” said Pocock. “Whatever your kid or your grandchild wants, that’s exactly what these children want.”
Pocock suggests making a family event out of shopping for toy donations. “Go to the store together and let the children in your life pick out something that they really like and donate that.”
Donation drop bins can be found at the Lacombe FCSS office, in the Lacombe Centre Mall and at various stores around the city.
Those interested in participating in Santa’s Anonymous are encouraged to apply by Dec. 18th.
Fill a Fridge, formerly known as the Lacombe Christmas Food Certificate Fund, is a program that aims to meet a basic need during the holiday season
“We are filling your fridge with food at Christmastime,” said Pocock. “It’s a really tight time of the year for so many families throughout the Christmas season. What we are simply doing is again, families come in and they apply, based on their income and the number of people they have in their home equals how much money they receive. It’s a voucher, as simple as it gets.”
The voucher allows the family to go to the three main grocery stores in Lacombe or some of the smaller grocery stores in surrounding villages and hamlets.
Once the family is in the store, the voucher is used like cash, allowing the family to choose whatever food they would like – to have a Christmas dinner, stock their fridge and pantry with the basics, or whatever else they may need.
“Everyone deserves to have a merry Christmas and part of having a merry Christmas is having some of that financial strain lifted off of you,” said Pocock. “We want to help our neighbours. We want to help our community members and this is a very simple way to do that by filling that basic need of feeding families.”
FCSS will begin distributing the food certificates on Dec. 15th and they must be used by the end of the month.
Another program that runs not only during the holiday season, but throughout the winter months is New Coats for Kids. The long running program is offered from late October to early March, depending on the weather, and is available to children ages zero to 16.
“It’s a program where families come in and apply and if they are eligible, then we give them a voucher of money to go to the Sears catalogue store (the Culinary Gift Shoppe) and they can purchase new winter wear for their family,” explained Pocock.
Although the program’s title leans towards coats, it’s not limited to just jackets, but it covers all types of winter gear – boots, mitts, scarves, toques – whatever will keep little ones warm.
“It’s very important that our children are dressed appropriately for Alberta winters,” said Pocock. “We believe that if children are warm, they are more likely to go outside, play on the playground and make friends. If our children are healthy, our community is healthy, so we want active, warm children.”
Pocock noted the program has seen a large increase in applicants this year.
“We’ve already had as many applicants as of December 1st as we did all of last year,” she said. “Last year we had 20 families and 44 children. I say we’ve met that already.”
Although it is based in the City of Lacombe, Lacombe and District FCSS covers all of Lacombe County – stretching from Alix and Mirror, Tees and Clive, across to Bentley.
“It’s not just Lacombe,” noted Pocock. “Donations that are made get funneled through Lacombe FCSS but they go to individuals who are in need of assistance throughout the county, as well as the city.”
Application forms for any of the three programs can be picked up at 201, 5214-50th Ave. and are also available at Alix, Bentley and Clive FCSS offices.
Donations are accepted online at www.lacombefcss.net or in person at the Lacombe and District FCSS office.
For more information call 403-782-6637.