Giving a helping hand at Christmas

    Chestermere’s annual Christmas with Dignity celebration is ready to go at City Hall on Dec. 16.
    New this year, Family and Community Services Coordinator Danielle Fermin has been able to get Santa to take time away from his work at the North Pole getting ready for Christmas and come down to official open the Christmas with Dignity Kids’ Holiday Store.
    “So that will be very new and exciting,” she said.
    They have also partnered with the library to introduce a winter scavenger hunt.
    “Kids can go through the library looking for different winter images and complete their sheets,” said Fermin.
    The rest of the event will be much the same as last year with a café, Santa’s workshop crafts, silent auction, and live music.
    The most popular part of Christmas with Dignity, the Kids Holiday store, will back again with elves acting as personal shopping assistants as kids four-years-old and up shop for Christmas presents for their family.
    The store never fails to draw a crowd with people often lining up before it opens to give their kids the experience to go pick out their gifts to the rest of the family.
    The Christmas with Dignity fund was created 10 years ago in response to a need in the community.
    “We partnered with the food bank to create Christmas hampers and Christmas with Dignity would provide gifts for families that could not afford presents for their children,” said Fermin.
    The city has continued to support the program which is continuing to make a difference in the lives of Chestermere families in need of a hand up around the holiday season.
    Since its inception, the Christmas with Dignity program and fundraising has grown to the point that the fund is able to help provide supports to residents in need throughout the year.
    “We’re able to use Christmas with Dignity funds to support basic needs,” she said.
    “That could be transportation, medical, housing,” said Fermin.
    Some of the biggest items that the fund helps families to pay are utility bills and rental arears.
    “So those are usually…higher financial supports that we offer,” she said.
    Last year Christmas with Dignity helped 600 individuals living in the community.
    Fermin said that it looks like they will help about the same number of people again this year.
    “There are still families that are still affected by the economic conditions right now,” she said.
    Christmas with Dignity and the Kids’ Holiday store is biggest fundraising campaign for the Christmas with Dignity fund each year.
    This year, Fermin said that they are hoping to double what they raised in donations last year.
    “So, we’re looking for $26,000 from the community,” she said.
    They are also still accepting donations of new or gently used gift items for their holiday store.
    They particularly need donations of items for men and boys.
    To make a donation, contact Fermin at (403) 207-8152. Donations are also being accepted in the lobby at city hall, at the Library and at the Waiting Room Café.
    Anyone looking for help this Christmas season can contact the city’s community resource centre at (403) 207-7079 and they will be connected with one of the coordinators who will conduct the intake into the program.