How Manitoba charities are helping out this pandemic holiday season

WINNIPEG –

With December fast approaching, Winnipeg charities are preparing for a busy holiday season.

Many organizations are facing higher demand than usual this year while still battling pandemic challenges.

Last holiday season, Feast Cafe Bistro found itself with idle staff and a community needing help.

As a result, restaurant owner Christa Guenther decided to launch the Indigenous feast boxes campaign, where a recipe and ingredients of a traditional meal are sent to families in need.

“It’s to give meal kits that serve four to six people with a recipe, all the ingredients, using Indigenous foods to communities in need,” said Guenther.

With last year’s success, the restaurant is back at it again.

“We found out how much of that need was there and how it really made a difference just having that recipe and having these families be able to replicate that later on,” said Guenther.

Feast Cafe Bistro said it’s hoping to fundraise for 100 kits, enough to feed about 600 people. 

The Christmas Cheer Board is also seeing the need this year, where volunteers are receiving more requests for holiday gifts and food hampers than normal.

“We have seen high demand, so we are anticipating that we will exceed the average 17,000 hampers we do every year,” said Shawna Bell, the executive director of the Christmas Cheer Board.

To keep up with the demand, the charity is looking for more donations.

“We are always looking for toy donations. This year we are a little short in the 10–14 age range for both boys and girls. So certainly that’s in high demand and we would love if anyone could drop some off,” said Bell.

The Christmas Cheer Board said it’s also asking for help finding a bigger space for next year.

Despite being in a smaller facility this year, the board is still taking orders until Dec. 23.

The pandemic-related stress is also being felt at the Salvation Army.

“As with a lot of organizations, we found new costs, new expenses, things had to shift around and we had to adapt to make sure we were still providing as many services as we possibly could,” said Blair Malazdrewich, the communications manager for the Salvation Army Prairie Division.

This year, the organization is implementing new pandemic-friendly technology to its classic kettle campaign.

“We have something called a tip-tap technology that allows people to tap their cards as they go by in five, 10 and 20 dollar increments. The great thing about that is it allows people to keep their social distance, and it’s an instant donation to the salvation army,” said Malazdrewich.

The Salvation Army has set a fundraising goal of $350,000 in Winnipeg and $2 million in the prairie region, including Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Northern Ontario.

The Salvation Army is also collecting new toys for children during its toy mountain fundraiser. A list of drop-off locations can be found here.

No matter the charity, they’re all counting on the giving nature of Manitobans to put a smile on someone’s face come the holidays.

“I’ve actually come to know Manitoba is one of the most generous provinces in the country,” said Guenther.  

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