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Giving Santa and parents a helping hand

Barrhead and District FCSS taking registrations for their Christmas programs
FCSS Christmas program pic
A picture of some of the toys that have been donated to the Santa's Toy Box program. The program, run by Barrhead and District Family Community Support Services, ensures children in need have a special present waiting for them Christmas morning.

BARRHEAD – It wouldn't be Christmas for a child if they could not wake up Christmas morning and have a special present waiting for them.

Unfortunately, not every household can always afford the luxury of buying presents for their children. 

That is where Barrhead and District Community Family Support Services (FCSS) and its Santa's Toy Box program comes in, which helps parents ensure children of all ages receive a Christmas present. 

To qualify for any of FCSS' Christmas programs, people must register via telephone. The deadline is Dec. 8. As part of the registration process, community and volunteer development coordinator Rae Whiting said parents will need their Alberta Health Care Card, which lists all the dependents in the household, and another piece of government-issued picture I.D. 

"The reason why we ask for that is for our volunteers, during pickup, it ensures that we match up the right package with the right individual," she said, adding it also helps ensure people registering for the program are area residents as people from outside the region have attempted to access FCSS programming in past years.

If that happens, Whiting said FCSS staff direct them to an agency and program in their area.

To donate to Santa's Toy Box, people can drop off their items at one of the collection bins in many local shops and banks or drop them off Monday through Friday during regular hours at the FCSS office (5115-45th Street).

While donations for all ages are welcome, Whiting said teens, especially older teens, are often overlooked.

"If you don't know what to buy for an older teen, I am sure our local stores have some good suggestions, or they can call FCSS and we can give them suggestions," Whiting said, adding as part of the registration process parents are asked for suggestions of what their children might like.

Some suggestions FCSS has given out in past years for this age group, regardless of gender, include sporting equipment, art supplies, toboggans or sleighs and gift cards that can be exchanged for items like clothing or music. For teenage girls, people might consider donating makeup and hair products.  

"If we don't have something in stock from our donations, we do have the means to buy something, and our volunteers are so good," Whiting said. "If they see something that they know would fit someone who is registered, they will put it on the list of items of things we might have to pick up."

Christmas hampers

Going hand-in-hand with Santa's Toy Box is FCSS' Christmas hamper program.

Although, it is technically a separate program, Whiting said people who need one often need help with the other.

Each hamper includes everything a person needs to cook their holiday meal, starting with a turkey or ham. After that, each hamper varies slightly, she said, noting the hampers are put together by the Food Bank and what is included depends largely on what they have on hand.

However, whenever possible food bank staff try to include other items like a box of Stove Top Stuffing, cranberry sauce and other items such as crackers, cookies, chocolates and candy to make their meal special. 

Another way people can donate is by registering at FCSS to adopt a family.

Pickup for both Santa's Toy Box and the Christmas Hamper is Monday, Dec. 20, at FCSS from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

For more information or to register for FCSS' Christmas programs, call 780-674-3341.

Barry Kerton,


Barry Kerton

About the Author: Barry Kerton

Barry Kerton is the managing editor of the Barrhead Leader, joining the paper in 2014. He covers news, municipal politics and sports.
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