Edmonton charities busy for Christmas holidays

As higher costs of living put pressure on families this holiday season, Edmontonians are digging deep to share what they have to help those who need it the most.

The Salvation Army, Edmonton Food Bank and the Christmas Bureau of Edmonton have all seen drastic increases in the number of people seeking services over the last few years, but all three said continuing community support are helping keep programs in place this Christmas.

“Edmonton has come through. We live in a very generous, blessed city,” said Lt.-Col Brian Venables of the Salvation Army.

Tuesday, for the 16th year, the showroom at Stahl Peterbilt in northwest Edmonton was filled with toys collected by staff, vendors and customers to be given out to families registered for the Salvation Army’s toy program.

Around 30 volunteers were in the showroom for the first of three gift-giving days for the Salvation Army, helping parents choose gifts.

“We set it up so that families can come in, they can shop for their toys for each of their children, which just provides the families with the dignity and the respect that they deserve to be able to provide their children with the toys,” said Lt. Amy Patrick of the Salvation Army.

This year 1,000 families registered for the toy program, which Venables said works out to around 2,500 kids.

“This service that we do for the community is probably my favorite because you see smiles. You see smiles when people donate the toys, but you also see smiles when mom gets to pick out a toy,” he said. “You know that that child is going to be smiling on Christmas morning because they got what they wanted.”

With many new people coming to the Salvation Army for assistance for the first time this year, the organization set out to raise $650,000. Currently, they’ve collected less than half and are sitting at $235,000.

Still, Venables said he’s thankful the number of toy donations will be enough to cover every family that registered for the program and have enough left over for anyone still in need.

“We might not be able to give as much as we’ve given in previous years, we might not have as many of the high-end toys, but we’ve got a lot of toys,” Venables. “So we’re going to make Christmas happen for everybody.”

The rest of the toys will be distributed at three Salvation Army centers in the city.


The Christmas Bureau of Edmonton (CBE) was also at work Tuesday, starting to build holiday food hampers at St. Francis of Assisi Elementary School in northeast Edmonton.

Adam Zawadiuk, CBE executive director, said the organization has seen around a 40 per cent increase over the last year and is expecting to help more than 51,000 people.

“The donations are still coming this year, but the need is so great,” he said. “There’s a lot of people we’re going to need to help this holiday season.”

It’s been wonderful to see so many Edmontonians donating, Zawadiuk said, despite many facing the same financial pressures from rising inflation.

“Our donors have certainly stepped up and are making sure that everybody in need is supported this season,” he said.

So far, the CBE has collected 40 per cent of its $2.2 million goal. In addition to needing more food and financial donations, the organization is also looking for more volunteers.

“Wherever people can help out, whether that’s with their time or with a financial donation, this our crunch time during hamper week so any support we can get from the community is so greatly appreciated,” he said.

Food hampers will be packed over the week and delivered Saturday morning to 1,400 families in the Edmonton area.


The Edmonton Food Bank received a $10,000 Tuesday donation from the Ukrainian Canadian Social Services. (Cameron Wiebe/CTV News Edmonton)With some help from a local Ukrainian organization, the Edmonton Food Bank (EFB) is halfway to its Christmas campaign fundraising goal of $3.5 million.

Tuesday, the EFB received a $10,000 donation from the Ukrainian Canadian Social Services (UCSS).

“Everyone was excited about doing this. They said that this is a great area to put some money towards,” said John Shalewa, UCSS president. “We know that the Ukrainian nationals have been benefiting from the Edmonton Food Bank, and we’re hoping this will go a long way to help out even other individuals in the community.”

Executive director, Marjorie Bencz, said the EFB is serving around double the amount of people compared to two years ago.

With increased housing costs compounding on inflation and other increased costs, she said more community and not-for-profit organizations are needing additional support from the food bank.

“We’re really feeling very privileged because of this donation, not only because of the monetary support – and $10,000 is a lot of money for us – but at the same time we appreciate that collaborative initiative, working together to provide really quality services to people in need,” she said.

More donations for the EFB are expected from the annual Candy Cane Lane food drive, which started Dec. 9 and runs until New Year’s Day.

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Marek Tkach

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