Winnipeg’s Christmas Cheer Board needs more drivers to help deliver record number of hampers

Winnipeg’s Christmas Cheer Board is desperate for drivers to delivers about 9,000 food hampers, as well as gifts for children, ahead of Christmas Day.

“We want to make sure everybody has the best of the holiday, so whatever we can do to make that happen. The drivers are really helpful,” Cheer Board executive director Shawna Bell said Monday.

Despite last week’s stormy winter weather and a bout of COVID-19 passing through the warehouse recently that disrupted staffing, Bell said there’s a buzz of excitement in the Wellington Avenue warehouse as the final push to get everything out to families is underway.

That includes Bernie Kuntz, who has been volunteering for 35 years.

The 86-year-old says it’s the people who keep him coming back to the Cheer Board year after year.

A man stands beside a tower of Christmas present he wrapped.
Bernie Kuntz, 86, has been volunteering with the Christmas Cheer Board in Winnipeg for 35 years. (Alana Cole/CBC)

“It’s the people. They’re nice. All the people I met are beautiful and I had a very good time here,” Kuntz said.

With fewer volunteers than in years past, Kuntz says anybody willing to spend a few hours at the warehouse or delivering hampers would help tremendously. 

Demand and cost of hampers has risen

Bell estimates the Cheer Board will give out upward of 19,000 hampers this year, which is up from last year. Bell said just under 17,000 hampers were given out to families in need in 2021.

“We really saw an overwhelming number of hamper delivery requests this year — more so than we’ve ever seen in years past,” she said.

There have also been many first-time requests for the Cheer Board to donate hampers, including for newcomers from Ukraine.

“We just can’t keep them on the floor long enough, which is a good thing, but we have many, many more that have to come out onto the floor,” Bell said.

The cost of groceries was about 28 per cent higher than the last time they were purchased in 2019. 

Bell said that’s tied to inflation.

“That’s a significant amount,” Bell said. “If it’s hitting us hard, I can only imagine how hard it is hitting families who are struggling.”

Sharon Cliteur sees the need.

She and her husband have been volunteering for two and four years, respetively, and they want to do their part to help families in need.

A woman is surrounded by big box bins.
Christmas Cheer Board volunteer Sharon Cliteur wants to ensure every parent has the opportunity to enjoy watching their kids enjoy opening presents at Christmas. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

“We know that times are getting a little tougher and there is definitely a need out there. We enjoyed our children, watching them open their presents when they were smaller,” Cliteur said.

“So I think we just want to make sure that every parent has that opportunity to enjoy watching their child enjoy opening something at Christmas.”

Bell estimates there’s been 300-400 delivery drivers taking an average of two to four hampers over the last six weeks, and she’s optimistic more people like Juan Guardado will donate their time.

Guardado and his wife were among the volunteer delivery drivers at the Cheer Board on Monday.

They already delivered one hamper and were back, loading up to five more hampers and some gifts to deliver.

“We enjoy to help other people,” Guardado said.

The warehouse is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily until Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. — and possibly longer, if necessary — on Saturday. 

More information on volunteering as a delivery driver can be found on the Cheer Board’s website.

WATCH | Christmas Cheer Board desperate for drivers:

Christmas Cheer Board desperate for drivers

1 hour ago

Duration 1:55

The Christmas Cheer Board is putting out a call for help tonight. It’s desperate for drivers. Thousands of hampers still need to be delivered in time for Christmas.

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