This year, our Youth in Philanthropy (YiP) group (a program of The Winnipeg Foundation) at the Boys and Girls Club saw firsthand the workings of charities in Winnipeg, with the aim of making grants to them.
For our last agency visit, our youth council met with the Assistant Executive Director from the Christmas Cheer Board, Linda Grayston.
The Christmas Cheer board only operates during November and December so the meeting with Ms. Grayston took place at the B&GC head office.
At first we weren’t sure how or if a grant from us would make a difference to such a large and well known agency.
We were surprised to discover how heavily the Christmas Cheer Board relies on volunteers. During the two months they are open, more than 2,600 children, youth and adults volunteer their time. The volunteers put together around 18,500 hampers each year that provide food, clothing and gifts to more than 50,000 people.
Grayston said this would be impossible without the volunteers, many who come back every year to work.
She explained that half the groceries and gifts needed for the hampers are purchased by the organization, with donations from the public making up the rest. It’s a real grassroots community effort, Grayston said.
We learned the Cheer Board needs about $950,000 a year to cover operating costs, money that comes from private donations since the agency does not receive government funding. Grayston said the bill for turkeys alone is $180,000 a year.
Our youth council were also amazed to find out that the Christmas Cheer board has been around since 1919. It began when a number of churches provided hampers for widows and orphans from World War I.
In 1970 it became an independent charity that provides hampers to families throughout Winnipeg.
Grayston shared a number of success stories with our youth council that showed us how something as simple as food can change a life.
For our youth council this was the most inspiring visit and we are excited to imagine how a YiP grant could make a difference to so many people in Winnipeg.