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‘Absolutely empty of everything’: Cheer Board of Winnipeg looks to restock, reassess after overwhelming holiday season

Now that the holiday season is winding down, Winnipeg’s Christmas Cheer Board is reflecting on one of its busiest seasons ever after receiving an overwhelming number of hamper requests this year.

The increase in demand eventually lead the board to stop accepting new applications for hampers earlier than usual a few days before Christmas.

“We started at a fast pace, and it just accelerated over the course of the two months that we’ve been open, eventually landing on over 20,500,” said executive director Shawna Bell, adding that the final number of hampers given out in 2023 was 20,773, some 2,000 more than the previous year.

Bell said they have nothing left in reserve after such a busy season.

“We depleted our resources for food, so we ended up going to some gift cards that we had in reserve,” she said. “Unfortunately, those also depleted after not a very long period of time. So we are absolutely empty of everything.”

Bell expects next year to be just as busy as this one has been. She said the Cheer Board is looking at changing some things in order to adjust to the demand.

“We’re going to go to the board in January and have some serious conversations about what our capacity is going forward,” said Bell. “I’d like to say that we can help as many people more possible – as many if not more than we did this year. But it really does become a dollars and cents concern.”

Bell said she’s going to be keeping an eye on food costs in the coming year.

“We order our food in June of each year. So when I see those prices come down I’m going to be able to adjust appropriately,” she said.

Despite the challenges, Bell said there’s been a silver lining in the form of increased volunteer hours and donations. Bell acknowledged the incredible community support, “Our volunteer hours were so significant this year,” she said. “We filled up with volunteer requests by before the beginning of December, and that was a fantastic thing to see.”

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