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Community volunteer steps down after 30 years of service, reveals her real name

A well-known Estevan volunteer, who helped secure 30 festive and happy Christmases for thousands of local families, has announced she will be stepping down from her position.
Char Seeman who co-chaired the Estevan Community Hamper Association and Angel Tree decided to step down from her role after 30 years with the committee.

ESTEVAN — A well-known Estevan volunteer, who helped secure 30 festive and happy Christmases for thousands of local families, has announced she will be stepping down from her position.

Char Seeman, whose real name is Charlotte (and not Charlene as many people have been calling her for years), decided to retire from volunteering and leading the Estevan Community Hamper Association and Angel Tree after three decades of service.

"I just thought everything needs a change. It's time for someone else to take over; it's good to have new blood. And my kids would really like to have a Christmas," Seeman shared with a laugh, adding that if it wouldn't have been for her extended family taking over Christmases for them all these years, their kids wouldn't have had the holidays.

Her journey and mission of ensuring that every kid in Estevan has a gift to unwrap on Christmas day started many years ago when she decided to join her mom in volunteering with the Angel Tree.

"My mom was actually involved in it," Seeman recalled. "And when I was off on maternity leave with my daughter, she asked me if I wanted to help them. That's how I started helping with the Angel Tree. And then it just grew from there, I decided to help with Angel Tree, and then I took over the Angel Tree. And then when Kevin Smith decided to stop doing the hamper part of it, I took over all of it."

Heather Woodhouse has co-chaired the committee.

Since then, every December turned into a blur, but the vision that no matter what the circumstances are, every child has to have a gift and everybody has to have a nice meal for Christmas, which kept her in it.

"I've been fortunate all my life to never have to be in those circumstances. And it's just something you never want to see. What's the first thing kids are asked when they get back to school after Christmas? What did you get for Christmas? What did Santa bring you? And it just broke my heart to think that a child would say they didn't get anything," Seeman shared.

"And you don't want to ever see anybody not have something to eat on Christmas, have something to celebrate. That's the true meaning of Christmas – being together with your kids and your family and having a meal and thinking of God and those kinds of things."

The programs have significantly grown since Seeman got involved. She said when she first started, hardly anybody knew they existed.

"I think the very first year I did it, there was like 79 [people on the list]. And the more it got out there, the more publicity it gained [the more people were applying for the programs]," Seeman said.

This year the Estevan Community Hamper and Angel Tree supplied Christmas suppers for 279 families and provided 417 kids with gifts, stockings and pyjamas.

The organization itself has also evolved over the years. Seeman said the concept is still the same, but how things are done has been totally changed.

"It's in a much, much better place," Seeman said. "With the privacy laws and those kinds of things, we had to do a lot of changes."

COVID-19 also strongly affected how they do things and a lot of it was a positive change. They plan on bringing some pre-pandemic practices back, like having community groups involved, but many things will stay the way they were done during the past few years.

Her time with the organization has been "amazing", Seeman said, as they've always been reaching their main goal by ensuring everyone can have a real Christmas.

"All these years have been just wonderful. You have people that come in and they get their kids toys, and they're crying and they're so thankful. And the people when you are giving them their hampers, they're just so very excited. You have to witness it to see how amazing it actually really is," Seeman shared.

She also thanked everyone who's been involved with the organizations throughout the years.

"Just a huge thank you to the community and surrounding areas of Estevan, all the businesses. We don't fundraise until December. And we have never, ever, ever, ever, ever not had enough money. And that all comes to the community. It's just amazing what they do for us ... Thank you to the Southern Plains Co-op for the hours they put in at no charge to us every year," Seeman said.

"And I want to thank my committee and all the volunteers over the many years. It was my pleasure to work with each and every one of them. I could not have done anything without them."

Estevan Community Hamper and Angel Tree committee also thanked Seeman for everything she's done.

"We want to give a huge heartfelt thank you to our leading commander and boss, Char Brandon Seeman. Over the past darn near 30 years, she has helped make sure thousands of kids wake up to presents under their trees every Christmas morning," they wrote on their Facebook page. "Organizing the Angel Tree and Christmas Hamper program is basically a full-time job come December, the amount of time that Char put into this over the years is admirable. We hope you all can recognize the impact she has had on the kids of our community and the heart and soul that she put into this program."

The Estevan Community Hamper and Angel Tree committee will get together for a wrap-up meeting at some point. Tentatively, Jolie Bayda is going to lead the organization with the help of other members. Seeman said she'll be completely out for a few years, but she is confident the organization will continue with their mission and will do great.

"I know the crew is going to be amazing, and they're going to do a great job," Seeman said.