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Grovenor Elementary School Students Provide “Helping Hand” to Local Edmonton Families

November 1st, 2015

By Corinne Mercier

They may not be one of Edmonton’s largest schools, but Grovenor School takes pride in being “family-sized”—their small size makes it much easier to encourage parental involvement and ensure that staff and students know one another.

Part of the school’s mission is to encourage and facilitate greatness in each and every one of their students through an emphasis on specific leadership principles. In doing so, Grovenor School aims to develop the whole child—socially, emotionally, academically and ethically. A key component of this has been the development of a school leadership group aimed at increasing students’ engagement with their community.

In 2014, the Grovenor leadership group—who called themselves the “Helping Hands”—held a fundraiser in support of the Christmas Bureau of Edmonton. “They decided that a way to get the kids excited about donating, since it’s Christmas time, would be through candy grams,” explained Denise McNeill, Principal of Grovenor School. “Working together, the students came up with the idea, came up with the messages and ran the sale.”

Organizing a fundraiser for the Christmas Bureau was not the only way these community-minded students spread cheer last Christmas. “They also sent out Christmas cards to a local seniors’ home and visited that home to sing Christmas carols.”

Celebrating 75 years of providing festive meals

Established in 1940 as part of the Edmonton Council of Social Agencies, the Christmas Bureau of Edmonton responded to an urgent need in the community. Many families were facing difficult times due to World War II and were unable to enjoy the most basic of Christmas traditions—sharing a meal. With the help of generous Edmontonians, 754 families received festive hampers in their inaugural year.

Since 1940, the Christmas Bureau has continued to see a rise in demand as the Edmonton population grows each year. Last year alone, the local charity provided festive meals to 64,636 people, nearly half of which are children and teens. And, the demand only continues to grow.

“This year we’re anticipating an 11.8 per cent increase in the number of people requesting our help this festive season,” says Wendy Batty, Executive Director of the Christmas Bureau of Edmonton.

To meet this demand, the Christmas Bureau will count on the support of over 500 volunteers and thousands of donors and fundraisers to meet their $1.7-million fundraising goal.

Fundraisers a key source of donations for the Christmas Bureau of Edmonton

Fundraisers are essential to the Christmas Bureau’s annual campaign. Last year, 135 fundraisers and events raised $593,937—nearly a third of 2014’s total goal. While several of those fundraisers are student-led initiatives, Darlene Kowalchuk, Campaign Director of the Christmas Bureau of Edmonton says they are always seeking new ways to engage youth in the mission and mandate of the organization. “We feel so encouraged when we hear about young people organizing fundraisers for us,” says Darlene.

From raising money at an annual Christmas concert to selling hot chocolate at Candy Cane Lane, young Edmontonians are always finding unique ways to support their community. Encouraging students to give back to the community has been an important lesson that Grovenor School has been imparting on their students. It’s about “having students work on giving back to the community and not always being focused on themselves,” says Denise.

Big or small, the Christmas Bureau of Edmonton is always eager to hear about the community’s fundraising ideas. “Third-party fundraisers are such an important part of our annual campaign. Their fundraising efforts are what help us to meet our annual fundraising goals,” says Darlene.  

Going beyond providing a single meal

At the end of the fundraising campaign, Darlene Kowalchuk was invited to accept a cheque for the proceeds of the event on behalf of the Christmas Bureau of Edmonton. Grovenor School’s students beamed with pride at what they had accomplished. And, they had accomplished a lot. The final donation tally was $310—enough to feed several families.

“Grovenor School students are an amazing group. Their act of kindness is making an impact on children in our community,” says Darlene.

Principal Denise McNeill was equally impressed with the generosity of her students. “Choosing the Christmas Bureau and giving back to families who may not have food at that time of year or any time of year was a really good decision of their part,” said Denise.

What these students may not know is that they are providing more than a single meal with the funds they raised—their act of kindness will impact a family for a lifetime. As Shawna, a past client of the Christmas Bureau explains: “Organizations like the Christmas Bureau give people like my mother, my son and I the gifts of hope, love and the true meaning of Christmas.”

If you would like to learn more about planning your own fundraising activity, visit or call 780-421-6074.

Corinne Mercier is the Marketing and Communications Officer at the Christmas Bureau of Edmonton

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