Spreading Christmas cheer


By Kate Jackman-Atkinson

The Neepawa Banner

The Neepawa Salvation Army is in high gear these days as they prepare for one of their major and most visible campaigns, Christmas hampers. The Christmas hamper program provides food and toys, everything to bring Christmas to those less fortunate who might otherwise not have a Christmas.

Amanda Naughton-Gale, the Neepawa Salvation Army’s community service representative, says that the deadline to register for hampers has already passed and about 100 families have been registered. She added that while the deadline has passed, if they find out about any additional families, they will try to accommodate them. “We’re not going to let people go hungry,” she said. Families are referred to the program and last year, 111 hampers were delivered.

Preparing the hampers takes many volunteer hours and donations of items and money. Naughton-Gale said that they are still looking for lots of help. For those looking to donate food items, Naughton-Gale said that they are especially looking for items such as stuffing, pancake mix, peanut butter and Christmas candy. “Something special…anything that reminds you of Christmas,” she said.

For toys, they are looking for gifts for children 12 and under.  Naughton-Gale advises donors to stay away from violent games and that they prefer gifts that can be enjoyed by either boys or girls.  Older children are given Neepawa Bucks, which allow them to pick their own gift while supporting local merchants. Donations of food or toys can be left in the boxes at area retailers or at the Salvation Army Thrift Store.  

Those wishing to donate money can make a donation at the Store or to any of the community volunteers manning the Christmas Kettles.  All money collected through the kettles supports Christmas Cheer and Naughton-Gale said that so far, they are below their campaign goal of raising $4,500. “We’ve got quite a bit to go,” she said. The kettle campaign ends on Dec. 20. Donors can also donate online or make a $5 donation through their phone by texting  HOPE3013 to 45678. Any surplus raised through the kettles will be used to fund year-round programming, such as the food bank.

Gathering items and preparing the hampers takes about 60 volunteers, with much of the work being done in the days leading up to delivery day. Naughton-Gale said that on Dec. 16 they will be organizing toys, on Dec. 17 they will be preparing the hampers and on Dec. 18 they will be adding the fresh items and delivering the hampers. She added that anyone who wants to help over these days can show up at the rifle range at 10 a.m. People can volunteer for as much or as little time as they have available.