ESTEVAN - The Community Hamper Association started accepting applications and referrals for Christmas hampers on Nov. 1.
They are also now accepting applications for Christmas gifts for children through their Angel Tree program.
In most cases, people apply for both programs at the same time, but Char Seeman, who is the co-chair of the association with Heather Woodhouse, said if people only need one or the other, it's also an option.
Christmas hampers are filled with everything a family may need for a festive dinner. They are made depending on the family size and will be available for pick-up right before Christmas.
Every year they are provided free of charge to all families that may need some help, to ensure every house in the community can indulge in the Christmas spirit, no matter the state of the economy or any other circumstances.
The parallel Angel Tree program allows parents to choose gifts for their kids, from newborn to 16 years of age, at the pop-up Christmas Toy Store, so every child in Estevan and area would have something special under the tree to unwrap on the holidays.
So far, the demand for hampers has been on par with the previous year, Seeman said, and maybe slightly lower.
"We're already getting quite a few applications. I think it's going to be a busy year," Seeman said.
While some people tend to wait until the very end to apply, Seeman said they have a hard deadline set for Dec. 1, so all applications must be in by that time.
Last year the association filled a record 400 hampers, and Seeman said that if the tendency remains and they end up with a little less, it will only speak to the fact that some people went back to work, which is always "a good thing." But one way or the other, with the help of the community they always make sure that they meet any demand.
To collect gifts for the kids, the Community Hamper Association sets up Angel Trees in different businesses in Estevan. People can pick a little angel off the tree with the age and gender of a kid, and then get an appropriate gift and drop it off with volunteers at the tree. Or they can just bring toys or other items that would make a great gift for a child. People can also donate towards Christmas hampers at the same locations.
Angel Trees will appear on Nov. 30 and will run through Dec. 11. They will be located at Walmart and Your Toy Store and More. The latter is up already, so donations can be dropped off there.
With the pandemic still ongoing, the pickup of hampers and toys will be organized in the same way as it was last year.
"We're going to follow the same protocols as what we followed last year. With the pandemic still going on, everything will be done the same, everything will be done by appointment. There'll be no delivery of hampers, they will all be picked up," Seeman said.
The hampers will be set for pick up at the Salvation Army, and the toy store will once again be set up in the basement of St. Giles Church. All people registered for the programs will receive phone calls once the dates for those are set.
Community groups, businesses and individuals usually get together this time of the year to support the Community Hampers Association's initiative and ensure the wellbeing of the entire community.
To register, people can just call Seeman at 306-421-9182, Woodhouse at 306-421-2457 or the Salvation Army at 306-634-2074 to provide brief information about their family and children who would need Christmas gifts.
"Everything can be done over the phone and we fill out the paperwork," Seeman said.