By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – The Midstream Support Society’s Santa Store opened Wednesday in the former Teen Centre for another season of helping struggling families put a smile on their children’s faces come Christmas morning. But if early numbers are any indication, the charitable initiative is going to need as much help as it can get this season to make Christmas special for local families who otherwise would have none.
“We’ve got about 160 kids right now that we are dealing with,” said Santa Store volunteer Linda Krauskopf, noting last year’s store serviced 200 children in total. “We’re just opening it up and usually we get a lot of referrals after we open up and right up until Christmas.”
Krauskopf said she has seen a greater need for the service this year right out of the gate, something that has left her and other volunteers concerned the store will be able to assist all the families who come forward over the remaining weeks in search of a little help. “I see a lot of single parents who are in need,” she said. “Most of them are working and just getting by. We’ve had a couple that have been laid off lately. I don’t know. It’s the economy right now. It takes six weeks to eight weeks to get an unemployment cheque. Right at Christmas time is not a good time to be getting laid off.”
The store got a helping hand of their own Dec. 6 when the St. Albert Canadian Tire donated approximately $5,600 in toys to the store, along with a commitment to match Notre Dame Elementary School’s Pennies from Heaven initiative dollar for dollar as they’ve done in previous years. The Morinville and District Chamber of Commerce put out a call to local businesses to bring donations to the Chamber’s Dec. 7 luncheon. That call to action resulted in two Santa’s sacks of toys being carted off when the luncheon was done as well as many local business owners vowing to donate directly to the cause.
But while Krauskopf sees both influxes of donations as an extra blessing from the community, she is hoping the community will strongly come to the cause’s aid this year to help those who have little left after the rent and utilities to give their children the Christmas they would like them to have. “If we don’t dig deep, kids won’t have a Christmas,” she said. “And what would that look like? Those [parents] are the ones we want to get at. They’re working day to day but just don’t have an extra hundred dollars at the end of the month. They’re in the community working. They’re paying their bills, but just paying their bills.”
Parents registered for the program can come into the Santa Store and get two presents for their children, gifts valued at a total of approximately $40. The organization arranges for one major and one minor gift for each child. There is no charge to the parent. All gifts and cash for gifts are donated by the public, either brought directly to the Santa Store or collected in bins set up around town by the Knights of Columbus and those collected through RV City’s toy hauler program.
While there is concern about servicing all local families in need, regardless of the age of their children, Krauskopf explained there is always a shortage of items suitable for teenage boys and girls. she suggests gift certificates for local coffee shops and restaurants as well as any item people would find suitable for a teen.
The Santa Store works in conjunction with the Knights of Columbus’ Christmas Hamper program. Any gifts left over from the store are given to the Knights of Columbus to be used in their program. Krauskopf said people looking to help or looking to be helped can visit the Santa Store or call her at 780-939-5035 for more information on specific needs and requirements. drop offs can be made at the Midstream’s Community Drop In around the corner from Quinn’s Plumbing and Heating.