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    How Christmas With Dignity helps

    CHESTERMERE – If you’ve been to a local business in Chestermere lately and seen Christmas With Dignity donation boxes still sitting on the counter, you might have wondered why these donations weren’t scooped up and quickly used to assist local families for Christmas.

    If this was your initial thought, you’re not alone, as one Anchor Weekly reader sent in this letter on Dec. 27:

    Dear Editor,
    I stopped at The Bargain Shop in Chestermere today and noticed that a Christmas With Dignity donation box, full of cash, was still sitting on the front counter by the till. Since I assumed that the money was supposed to be used for help at Christmas time, I was left wondering why no one had picked it up.”

    Patty Sproule, director of Community Services in Chestermere, started Christmas with Dignity back in 2007 because there was nothing in the way of an assistance organization in the community besides the food bank. She offered us a detailed explanation of how the charity works to help families all year long, not just during the holidays.

    “While the bulk of the Christmas With Dignity donations are made from mid-December until mid-January, it is not unheard of to receive donations at any time of the year,” she said. “Who says you can’t observe the spirit of Christmas in July.

    “Historically, we have found that the collection boxes hosted by various local businesses receive the bulk of their donations from the third week in December to the first week in January, therefore, we purposely do not retrieve them until sometime between Jan. 2 and 7.”

    Sproule said that since there is no way of predicting either the level of need or the amount of donated funds that will be received from year to year, they are careful to maintain a reasonable balance of funds so that they will always be in a position to assist families during times of crisis, anytime.

    As far as why the charity goes by the holiday-themed name, Sproule said it just stuck with people and they had to give in to calling it by it’s “birth name.”

    “In 2008, we tried to change the name of the fund to ‘Gift With Dignity’ to reflect the elevated goal of assisting families to meet their basic needs, year round,” she said. “However, Christmas With Dignity had apparently resonated with people so much already, they insisted on continuing to call the fund by its ‘birth name’.

    “Ever conscious of the community’s voice, we decided to give in to the concept that Christmas could happen at any time of the year.”

    Sproule said, “The Christmas With Dignity fund was created in 2007 for the purposes of assisting families in need, during the Christmas season.

    “The goal was to be able to pay for some of the family’s basic needs during the month of December, such as  food or utility bills, leaving them with enough money to purchase gifts for their own children.

    “The philosophy is a bit of a twist on that of traditional charities that ask the public to donate toys and gifts for anonymous children.”

    Sproule said that they believe that parents know their children best, and should have the dignity of personally choosing gifts for them. During that first year, the residents, organizations and businesses of Chestermere and area’s generosity was so remarkable, that they were left with enough funding to assist families during difficult times throughout the following year, and have continued to do so since.

    So, the next time you see a CWD donation box around the community at what may seem like an odd time of the year, consider that you’re helping other local families through times of need or crisis, which can happen at just about any time.

    Look for the 2011 donation total for CWD in an upcoming issue of the Anchor.