The Christmas Bureau – A collaboration that includes everyone in holiday celebrations

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This fall, speaking with individuals who were registering to receive a Christmas Hamper it became very clear how important the program is in the community. One man, a former chef, was very excited to be receiving a turkey that he could share with his family. You could clearly see the joy and excitement he felt at the thought of sharing his love of cooking with his family over the holidays.

Making sure over 4000 households have an opportunity to come together and celebrate the holidays wouldn’t be possible without the Christmas Bureau. The Christmas Bureau coordinates the efforts of local organizations that provide assistance to help people have a better Christmas. Every year local organizations, faith groups, community groups, individuals and families come together to make sure everyone in Waterloo Region has a wonderful holiday season. This collaboration works together to make sure that donations are assemble and distributed as effectively and efficiently as possible.

This project brings to life the collaborative spirit that organizations in the Food Assistance Network demonstrate throughout the year. The Food Assistance Network is a system of more than 100 community agencies and food programs, whose services support the basic food assistance needs of children, families, couples, individuals, and seniors–every day. They work together to provide services that make sure everyone in our community has access to healthy food.

At Christmas time, this collaboration results in something truly special – Christmas in a box, prepared and delivered lovingly by volunteers. The House of Friendship, Food Bank of Waterloo Region, and Salvation Army with other community partners work together to gather donations for special Christmas hampers full of food and toys to families in Waterloo Region.

 

All the Fixings for Holiday Dinner

It starts with a delivery of large proportions, not in Santa’s sleigh, but in The Food Bank of Waterloo Region’s Truck. This year over 60,000 pounds were delivered from the Food Bank of Waterloo Region to the MTD Warehouse that has been generously donated as the temporary warehouse for the Christmas Hamper project. This is combined with donations from the House of Friendship to create Christmas Hampers.

The Food Bank of Waterloo Region’s role is to make sure that programs participating have all of the food that they need to help any family that needs support. Over 60% of the food for the Christmas hampers comes from The Food Bank.

The role of House of Friendship is to coordinate the assembly and delivery of over 4,000 hampers to assist approximately 11,000 people in need. This involves finding donated warehouse space, recruiting and training hundreds volunteers.

Teams of volunteers work over 2 weeks assembling hampers. Some volunteers have been volunteering for years creating a sense of camaraderie as they prepare the packages. Others have been given the afternoon from local businesses to lend a hand in preparing the packages.

The Christmas Hamper has evolved over the years as staff and volunteers have listened to what the community needs. Last year Tony Bender, who coordinates Christmas Hampers, asked the recipients what they could do to make the hampers more special. They identified more fresh fruit would be welcome.

This year’s Christmas hampers are very interesting, a great variety of items – canned items, but also fresh food onions, carrots, oranges, apples, potatoes and of course some Christmas treats!

Each year the efficiency of the hamper process gets better. Each year processes are tweaked to make sure donations are processed and distributed as effectively as possible.

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Wednesday marked the first night that hampers were being delivered to the community. Every hamper is hand delivered to recipients homes, complete with well wishes from volunteers.

 

Gifts Under the Christmas Tree

Christmas wouldn’t be quite complete without children opening presents. The Salvation Army of Kitchener Waterloo provides families with toys to make sure there are presents under the tree on Christmas morning. Each year they provide over 5,500 toy hampers for children of all ages. The great importance of these donations is seen when parents come to pick up their toy hampers. Reactions can be anything from tears, laughter or smiles.

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Celebration, Generosity and Gratitude

I don’t think there is a better example of how we as a community come together to help everyone in Waterloo Region feel a part of holiday celebrations.

The collaboration of the Christmas Bureau demonstrates many truths of this community. It shows that Waterloo Region is a place that is focused on working together to provide important services and to make sure what is given is stretched as far as possible to make sure all are included.

Most importantly it demonstrates the impressive, overwhelming generosity of members of our community who donate money, food or their time to make sure all families have a joyful Christmas.

Without members of the community donating their time, funds and food the Christmas Hamper programs simply couldn’t be done. It is the whole hearted generosity of this community that means all of us in Waterloo Region can come together to celebrate the holidays.

From the families of the Christmas Bureau to yours – Thank You and Merry Christmas.

Kate MacDuff

Food Assistance Network Coordinator

Food Bank of Waterloo Region

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