Late surge helps charity cover hamper requests

Okotoks: Resource centre collects more than $30,000 in donations

By: John Barlow

  |  Posted: Thursday, Jan 09, 2014 10:53 am

From left: Ryan Kaiser, president of the Okotoks Firefighters Association, Joanne Dzurka, resource coordinator with Okotoks Healthy Family Resource Center, and firefighter Bob Button show some of the $940 raised through the Okotoks Light Up barbecue for the center. Sobeys, Nutters, M&M Meats and Okotoks Party Rentals contributed to the cause which gives 100 per cent of its proceeds to the Christmas hamper program.
From left: Ryan Kaiser, president of the Okotoks Firefighters Association, Joanne Dzurka, resource coordinator with Okotoks Healthy Family Resource Center, and firefighter Bob Button show some of the $940 raised through the Okotoks Light Up barbecue for the center. Sobeys, Nutters, M&M Meats and Okotoks Party Rentals contributed to the cause which gives 100 per cent of its proceeds to the Christmas hamper program.
Jordan Verlage/OWW

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Less than two weeks before Christmas things were looking bleak for the Okotoks Christmas hamper program, but a late surge from giving residents in the community ensured those in need had a Merry Christmas.

In the days leading up to the holidays the Okotoks Healthy Family Resource Centre looked like they would fall well short of their fundraising goal of $25,000, which would needed to meet the requirements of the 67 families registered for the annual Christmas hamper program.

By mid-December less than $12,000 had been donated to the program meaning possibly some who registered for the program would have to go without.

A desperate call went out to the community and, as it usually does, Okotoks and area responded.

Joanne Dzurka, resource co-ordinator for the Okotoks Healthy Family Resource Centre, said more than $30,000 was collected meaning not only were all the hamper requests met, but there was also a small surplus for next year.

“It was an incredibly trying year for everyone, but everybody rallied around our community and it was really moving to see the donations come from businesses, individuals and families,” said Dzurka as she fought back tears. “We did have some anxiety because we knew we had 67 families who were depending on us.

“This helps relieve some of the stress for those families and it helped make Christmas what was meant to be.”

Dzurka said there was a real sense of community pride among the staff when the donations started to flow in after they put the call out to the community.

Most importantly, everyone who requested a hamper from the resource centre this year had their needs met.

The number of people who requested assistance this year was typical of past years, however, there was some concern the numbers would be substantially higher this year as Dzurka said they increased the income thresholds to be more indicative of the higher cost of living.

“We increased those thresholds so we would be able to help more people — we felt we had to do that,” she said. “We want to make sure help is available to everyone who needs it.”

Of the 67 applicants there were 12 singles or couples with no children, 40 single parents and 15 dual parent families. Also, of the 67 applicants 36 of them had employment of some sort, 12 had income support, one was on AISH, one on employment insurance and one on worker’s compensation.

Dzurka said it is important the community understand the vast majority of people needing assistance are working families who are, for whatever reason, having difficulty making ends meet.

“The perception out there is these are people who are not working, but that is not the case,” she said. “These are good people who are working and contributing.”

Each hamper includes $100 worth of goods for each person in the family as well as $50 for a family outing in the form of gift certificates for bowling, a movie or a restaurant.

Dzurka said if the fundraising fell short they would have dipped into their reserve to try and provide a hamper for all 67 applicants, however, hampers would have been allocated to those most in need and they may not have been able to help those who applied later in December.

In addition, 100 per cent of the donations to the hamper program go directly to the families in need. The resource centre’s administration costs are covered through other grants.

The Okotoks Healthy Family Resource Centre also works with other local charities, such as the Okotoks Food Bank and Salvation Army, in the Christmas Committee to avoid duplication in programs and ensure no families fall through the gap. The charities and service groups represented on the committee share ideas and resources to ensure all the needs in the community are being met during the Christmas season.


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