About 40 volunteers packed 1,300 hampers, on Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019, for the Christmas Bureau in the gym of St. Francis of Assisi Elementary School for delivery to families in need.Shaughn Butts / Postmedia


Ever since Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was published in Great Britain in 1843, the story of cold-hearted businessman Ebenezer Scrooge’s Christmas Eve conversion from miser to philanthropist (with the help of a few ghosts) has served as a model for Christmas conscience and charity.

So here we are, Christmas season 2019.

The problem, truly a First World problem, is the sheer volume of the “asks.”

Any charity of any size has a “development” department, that, as often as not, contracts with marketing firms to bombard donors and would-be donors with e-mails, snail mail, telemarketing and social media inserts.


Many of us have become literally afraid to give. If a charity snares your email, street address or phone number, you are doomed to receive ever more requests, ever more frequently, from that charity. And then, somehow, requests flow in from charities you’ve never heard of.

But it’s Christmas!  We do want to help those less fortunate than ourselves – the old “there but for the grace of God” crosses our collective conscience.

May I remind you, dear reader, of Edmonton’s great, reputable Christmas charities, especially those that historically have been associated with the Edmonton Sun.

These charities, I can assure you, run on the tightest budgets possible. At least 90% of your donation dollar flows straight through to those in need.

The Christmas Bureau (christmasbureau.ca) has been around for many, many years, and continues to do a magnificent job meeting its essential mandate: That no family or single person in our city goes without a festive Christmas dinner.

To that end, a fleet of volunteer drivers head out this weekend (on Dec. 14) to drop off thousands of Christmas Bureau food hampers valued at about $100 each. The hampers also cater to the dietary/ethnic needs of recipients. At the same time, thousands of Sobeys/Safeway gift cards are delivered to less-than-fortunate families who prefer to shop on their own.

With a week-and-a-half until Christmas, the Bureau is a little bit behind last year. As of Dec. 12, it has raised about 26% of its financial goal of $1.3 million.

Of Adopt-A-Teen (adoptateenedmonton.ca), I have a huge and happy conflict of interest.

The annual campaign to provide a Christmas gift (a $50 Walmart gift card) for teens from less-than-fortunate families started in Hicks on Six, the column I was lucky enough to author, five days a week, in The Edmonton Sun from 1990 until my retirement as a full-time employee in 2010.

Since Adopt-A-Teen’s start in 1999, The charity has been The Edmonton Sun’s Christmas community project. Here I am, a semi-retired freelance columnist, still pounding the keyboard in support of my favourite Christmas charity!

Adopt-A-Teen is committed to gift cards for 5,500 under-privileged Edmonton teens. As of Dec. 12, 1,700 gift-cards have been funded, leaving another 3,800 teens to be taken care of by Christmas.

The Christmas Bureau, Adopt-A-Teen and CHED’s Santa’s Anonymous (santasanonymous.ca) gifts for children are often referred to as the three-legged stool of Edmonton’s Christmas commitment to its less fortunate.

The three Christmas charities work closely together, to ensure those being helped are truly in need, to ensure fairness and prevent abuse, to ensure your donation goes exactly where intended.

I know of no other city in North America where every child, from toddler to high-school graduate, will wake up on Christmas with a gift under the tree: Where no family goes without a festive meal.  It’s something to be proud of.

May I suggest that 10% of your Christmas budget – the amount spent on gifts, decorations, festive meals – be dedicated to those in need.

Other charities do equally important work at this time of year: The Food Bank (edmontonsfoodbank.com), Catholic Social Services (cssalberta.ca)  and The Salvation Army (salvationarmy.ca/alberta) leap to mind.  Every charity’s website is designed to accept credit-card donations and issue tax receipts.

Despite the bombardment of the Christmas “ask”,  never lose sight of the obvious.

That the vast majority of those who are hurting – families, innocent children, our neighbours, our friends, those in mental distress wandering our streets – simply need a small helping hand to turn Christmas from despair to joy.