Lacombe & District FCSS staff are busy preparing to launch several programs in the coming weeks to help the community over the holiday season.
“We have some major campaigns coming up, one being the Coats for Kids program,” said Crystal Zens, FCSS executive director.
“The others are the Christmas Fill a Fridge program, and then we also help with the Kinsmen Club’s Santa’s Anonymous program as well,” she added. “It’s the Kinsmen’s program, but we take in the applications here and help to find volunteers.
“So there are three streams for how people can access (assistance) this winter.”
Zens said that staff are bracing for increased demand with the Coats for Kids program because they served 60 per cent more kids this year in the annual Tools for School program.
“We are trying to come in prepared for that increase, which means we would need more donors. Kids can apply every other year for this program for winter coats and boots. We also like to keep the purchasing local which is nice because then the funds go back into our community.”
To that end, gift cards for the new coats and boots can be used at local suppliers, she said.
“We are excited about that program, but also a little nervous as the need was so much more for Tools for School. We are hoping we can meet the need.”
Applications for the Coats for Kids program will start being accepted on Oct. 24.
“And if residents feel like they would like to donate for this, that would be amazing!”
Folks can donate online at LacombeFCSS.net or by dropping into the office which is located on the second floor of the Lacombe Memorial Centre.
Zens said that Lacombe saw many new families setting in town through the year, plus there has been greater exposure to FCSS programming – both of which have impacted the level of need over the past few months.
“Our Christmas programs also serve the entire County as well including the communities of Alix, Clive, and Bentley,” she said.
Meanwhile, next up is the Christmas Fill a Fridge program. “This is a wonderful (service) that is a food security program, and it’s also customized to our local grocery stores,” she said.
“We have partnerships with all three grocery stores in our community as well as grocery stores in Alix, Clive and Bentley,” she explained. “It’s very humbling to see how much our communities support the program, too. It’s amazing!
“People who qualify for the program can have their own choices in what they would like for food for the holiday season,” she said, adding that come mid-November, those interested in either applying or donating can do so online.
The Santa’s Anonymous program also begins taking applications in mid-November as well.
“Their biggest need is donations of new, unwrapped toys,” said Zens, adding that last year saw a decline in both donations and toys.
“Lego is the mega thing! For Santa’s Anonymous, we try to stay away from electronics so the next best thing on every kid’s list is Lego. We had a real shortage of that last year.”
The Lacombe Kinsmen Club will be setting up drop boxes across the community, as well as one at the FCSS office, she said.
Age groups that particularly need donations are those from babies through to the toddler years, and also kids ages 14-16.
Good ideas include everything from games and books to gift cards and items of clothing.
“The wonderful thing about Christmas Fill a Fridge and our Coats for Kids programs are also that the donations go back to our local businesses, so it’s like a supportive cycle,” she said.
For Zens, there is no time of year quite like the holiday season.
“I think for every charity, Christmas is very special. You see the kindness and the generosity of our community come out in such a big way,” said Zens. “We are just so humbled by the ways that people are willing to give to others, lift them up and also make sure that they have a special and meaningful Christmas. It also helps the kids have some great memories, too.
“Making a difference and being trusted by the community as an agency that is going to help others through our multiple programs always fills my bucket!”
For more about Lacombe FCSS programs or how to donate, check out www.lacombefcss.net.