2013-12-17 at NOON
Handing out hampers
Volunteers packs boxes with food Tuesday at the Christmas Cheer hamper hand-off at the CLE.
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Seeing grateful smiles on the face of hamper recipients makes it all worthwhile, says the head of Thunder Bay’s Christmas Cheer campaign.
On Tuesday families in need took home a week’s worth of groceries, a turkey and its trimmings and toys for their kids, volunteers forming a never-ending assembly line to help make the holidays a happier time for more than 3,000 children.
Joleene Kemp, who this year returned as director of the annual Christmas Cheer program, said it’s a lot of work getting to this point, but it’s always rewarding for everyone involved.
“We are ready, we are pumped and we’re running a very smooth machine right now,” Kemp said. “It’s very, very exciting, a very positive energy here.”
The need continues to grow, she added. The number of children registered in 2013 is slightly higher than it was in 2012.
“Last year we had 6,000 individuals that we provided food for, so we’re not sure what we’ll end up as. But we’ve got lots of people that we’re providing for,” she said.
“And thank to 211, we’ve been able to redirect those that don’t qualify with us to the most appropriate agencies.”
A staple of the holiday season in Thunder Bay, Kemp said it’s important to share with those who might not be as fortunate at Christmas.
“Christmas seems to be the most hyped-about time in our community and probably across Canada. So for a lot of people it’s a very stressful time because they can’t make ends meet,” Kemp said. “Not everybody is without a job. People are working one or two jobs, but they’re minimum-wage jobs and they don’t have anything left over. They have to balance everything.
“What we’re doing is we’re taking the pressure off of them so that they can sit around the table and they can give their children brand new gifts and for one little moment the children can be just like every other child in their classroom.”
That’s precisely why Greg Dubeau returned to volunteer for a second year. He said it’s an excellent way to give back to the community as a whole.
Dubeau volunteered with other members of his office on Tuesday and said it’s great to give back to people who might need a little boost at Christmas.
“I love interacting with people and helping them out. Everyone here is so cheerful and so generous. You can really feel the positive energy,” he said.
“(The families) all have smiles on their faces and love that this is being given to them, basically, and this is a resource they can use. They’re very appreciative.”
Kemp said they've raised about $70,000 to date for this year's campaign, about half of their original goal. Donations can still be made until year's end.
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