At the beginning of every Holiday Helpers season, our committee meets to set a goal of how many families we hope to help. We always plan for growth year after year but try to keep the number reasonable given our staffing capacity and warehouse space.
It’s a running joke among the team because although we set a goal for the number of families, we usually end up ignoring that original number and take on more families then we originally projected.
This year is no different. We had set the goal of helping 325 families – 50 more than in 2012. But as the overwhelming support from donors came in, we decided to increase our goal and help 355 families!
So, we often get asked – how do we select the families that we will sponsor each year?
Selecting the families who will receive gifts is a very involved process and takes several months. We have a team that combs through hundreds of applications to select the families that are most deserving and in need of help. Many of our families are referred to our program through our partner organizations. These are organizations and individuals who are “on the ground” and working with families every day. Some of these amazing organizations include Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter, Interval House, Ontrack and Braeburn Neighbourhood Place. A few new ones to join us this year are Red Door Shelter and Native Child Family Services.
The families must meet a few criteria:
- They cannot have received a package from Holiday Helpers in the past. Unfortunately the demand is so high that we are only able to help a family once.
- They must be considered low income.
- They must have at least one young child. We always will provide gifts for older kids in the family but we believe it is important to preserve the Christmas spirit in little ones!!
- Most importantly, they must demonstrate that they are doing something to improve their current situation. We want to help families that are first trying to help themselves.
We get a variety of families. Many are single moms but we also have a few single dads. Some are new to the country and it is their first Christmas in Canada. Some have fled abusive relationships and trying to make a better life for their kids. Many are in school and trying to improve their skills so they can get a better job. All are hard-working and deserving of a little help during the Christmas season.
Thank you to everyone who supports us so that we can help more families each year!