Christmas Cheer Board still needs drivers, donations in lead-up to busiest season in years

It’s crunch time for the Christmas Cheer Board.

Volunteers at the Winnipeg charity are flipping things into high gear in the last week before they shut things down ahead of Christmas Eve. But they’re still in need of donations of toys, cash — and, maybe most importantly, people’s time.

“We would love to see some volunteer drivers come in over the next [week]. We’ve got lots of hampers to go to families across the city,” the Cheer Board’s newly appointed executive director, Shawna Bell, told CBC’s Weekend Morning Show host Marjorie Dowhos on Saturday.

“We’re busy and hopping up and down to make sure that we get toys and gift vouchers out to families this year. So it’s a busy time for us, but it’s also a very great time.”

Bell took over the charity after longtime executive director Kai Madsen stepped down from the role in August. Madsen, who had been with the Cheer Board for more than 50 years, died on Oct. 6.

The organization’s new leader said she’s not worried about people not showing up to help those in need during the holiday season — she just wants to get the word out about what they need.

“When it comes to volunteers in this community, we know that folks are out there and happy to help out,” Bell said.

“We know that folks in Winnipeg are so very, very generous.”

This year, one of the biggest needs is once again toys for kids age 10 to 14, who can be challenging to shop for, Bell said. She suggested things like sports equipment and puzzles, or even T-shirts and gift cards.

“Those types of things always really are very well-received by those kids,” she said.

“There’s lots of them on the shelves, and they are really something that kids look forward to.”

Financial donations are always appreciated, too — especially with the increase in need for the Cheer Board’s services this year, Bell said.

“We can do a lot with a little bit of money,” she said.

Need increasing

With applications for hampers still coming in, she said the organization is expecting to serve upwards of 18,000 families this holiday season. 

That’s up from last year, when applications dipped to around 15,000 during the first pandemic Christmas, and even the year before that, when there were about 17,000 applications, she said.

The organization has strict pandemic policies in place, with all volunteers fully vaccinated and anyone who comes into the building wearing face masks.

6:38Winnipeg Christmas Cheer Board bringing toys back to kids

Winnipeg’s Christmas Cheer Board is open again for business. Interim executive director Shawna Bell joins guest host Marjorie Dowhos to share how you can help, and how volunteers hope to pay tribute to long-time volunteer Kai Madsen. 6:38

They also clean regularly during the day to make sure things are as safe as possible for donors, hamper recipients and volunteers, Bell said.

Anyone who wants to get involved in helping out this year can visit the Cheer Board at its new location at 1081 Ellice Ave., where volunteers are working seven days a week.

They’re open until 8 p.m. on weekdays and 5 p.m. on weekends, right up until Dec. 23.

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