Santas Anonymous has a bigger need, but fewer donations so far

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

In 2019, 586 people had a better Christmas in Slave Lake because of Santas Anonymous. This year, the projected need is greater, but donations are down. Thankfully, there is still time. The food hampers and gifts will be packed up on December 22.

“It’s (Santas Anonymous donations) not doing well,” says Slave Lake Native Friendship Centre executive director Barb Courtorielle. “I’m not sure where it is coming from, but it’s not doing as it has done in previous years.”

Courtorielle expects to have to spend $28,000 on food for 200 hampers and around $12,000 on gifts, gift cards, and wrapping.

Last year, donations were $29,000, says a January 8, 2020 Leader article. This more than covered the costs of $25,541 for groceries and $2,800 for gifts, wrapping paper, and gift cards.

As each hamper is identical, food donations aren’t helpful, but cash, cheques, (and soon e-transfers) are. Also, toy donations are welcome.
Of the 586 people helped last year, 331 were children.

The hope is to give each child one big and two small presents this year, says Courtorielle.

Last year, there were various toy drives. Including. Roland Michener Secondary School’s annual fill-a-bus food drive, and Revolution Ford’s Santa’s Sleigh drive, and an EMS one. Slave Lake Pulp and others also donated. Also, one 10-year-old fundraised to donate 93 toys.

Some of these might be happening again this year, but will likely look different because of COVID-19.

This program has been in Slave Lake for a long time.

“Friendship Centre kicks-off Santa’s Anonymous” was the headline of an article in the Nov. 18, 1987 Leader. In 1986, 467 children received presents and there were 208 hampers. Two fundraisers mentioned in the article were a pancake breakfast and a ‘rock-a-thon.’ In the ‘rock-a-thon’, people were to bring their rocking chairs and rock the night away, with 10-minute breaks for every two hours of rocking. There were snacks, books, and videos to watch, and presumably a fun time was had by all. Although people were allowed to ‘bribe’ their way out of rocking if they wished.

Not sure if either of these ideas could be made COVID friendly, but it goes to show how creative fundraisers can be.

Up until now, the Friendship Centre has only accepted cash or cheques, but it is working on adding electronic banking for Santas Anonymous and the food bank.

Donations for the food bank are going well, says Courtorielle. She spent $19,000 for groceries in October.

The Friendship Centre is one of 21 Native Friendship Centres in Alberta and over 120 in Canada, says Courtorielle in a Nov. 6 Facebook post. “The food bank has been managed by the Friendship Centre for over 30 years now. Our Food Bank is operated and functional due to the amazing volunteers, staff and myself. Our donations towards the food bank come from the community members, community businesses (local), big chain stores as well like (Sobeys, Walmart, No Frills and Food Bank Canada). Many churches do food drives for us as well and always end up being a huge success helping us a lot as well as the food bank clients.

“Our food bank numbers are increasing every month. We serve anywhere from 220 to 380 people. All food bank donations go to the food bank. It does not pay any utilities, rent or wages toward the centre.”

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