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September 1st, 2013

Each year all of Edmonton comes together to ensure that Edmontonians in need receive a festive meal at Christmas time.  Our goal for 2012 is to provide a festive meal for 65,000 Edmontonians in need. This year we need to raise $1.8 million.  There are many ways one can donate to the Christmas Bureau of Edmonton to ensure that no one is left behind at Christmas time.


You can shop in our virtual gift shop and make a hamper or choose items to make up a hamper by visiting  Once you finish shopping, you will be automatically be directed to the Christmas Bureau of Edmonton donation page to make your donation based on items in your shopping cart.  This is a fun way for the family to build a virtual hamper for another family in need.


You can donate from your mobile phone by texting “CHRISTMAS” to 45678 for a $10 donation or by texting “HAMPER” to 45678 for $5 donation.  Mobile Giving Foundation Canada allows for up to $30 a month donation per phone number.

In partnership with various mall management, Christmas Bureau of Edmonton volunteers will be stationed at various locations throughout the City of Edmonton accepting your donation, issuing tax receipts and providing information about Christmas Bureau of Edmonton events and activities.

  •  Kingsway Mall – November 17 to December 24 – open mall hours – located on the second level between The Gap and Body Works
  • Londonderry Mall – November 17 to December 24 – open mall hours – location will also house gift wrapping – upper level, between At Needlepoint and The Bay.

For more information about the Christmas Bureau of Edmonton, please visit our website at

Giving Christmas a Change Click to view larger

By: Amy Bridges

    Christmas is my favourite holiday. I love decorating my tree by the fire, sharing gifts with the people I love, and eating turkey smothered in gravy until my sides hurt. It may be cold outside, but bundled up in my parka, there’s nothing prettier than taking a winter stroll to enjoy the snow, the street-side decor, and the general feeling of cheer in the air. But there, in the corner of my eye, I can see a small bundle of rags and newspaper piled into a doorway.

    Ice-covered legs are sticking out of a dirty, threadbare blanket. Frostbitten hands are covering a sad, wrinkled face to protect it from the wind. An empty Tim Hortons cup is sagging nearby, limp with water. In the midst of my seasonal joy, a man is freezing because he has nowhere else to go. He hates winter. He even hates Christmas. To him, and to most of Edmonton’s homeless citizens, Christmas means only dangerous temperatures, solitude, and despair.

    I’ve heard it’s easier to see them in July. Easier to walk past them and know that someone else will give them a pocketful of change. But when this reaction carries through into the winter, walking by without so much as a second glance is a death sentence. If not for Edmonton’s emergency shelters, hot meal programs, and support services, Christmas would be a time for mourning instead of celebration.

    “Being a northern city, it’s pretty dangerous for people who are outside in the winter because they can freeze if they’re outside at night,” says Ryan McCormick, Director of Men’s Services at Hope Mission, a social care agency that provides emergency shelter and beds for hundreds men and women. “We’ll always have somewhere people can go; we don’t turn anyone away.”

    Every Monday in December, Hope Mission hosts a Christmas Dinner, where visitors are served a hot Christmas meal by staff members and volunteers. Remaining open even on Christmas morning, visitors can meet Santa and receive a gift package, ensuring that everyone gets something on Christmas. “It’s a pretty unique opportunity to tell someone they matter,” says McCormick, having working on Christmas morning himself. “It shows people that nobody is outside of being cared for or being noticed.”

    Boyle Street is a community service organization that provides life-saving resources and support programs for people who have encountered barriers somewhere in their lives. In November, the Boyle Street begins their Winter Bus program, driving through the streets of Edmonton seven days a week, picking up people who are camping in the snow or who are in distress. They’re given the opportunity to warm up, have something to eat, and receive medical attention.

    “Most of the people we work with were victimized as children, and those scars are long lasting,” says David Berger, Deputy Executive Director at Boyle Street. “Christmas is a difficult time because it underlines separation, loss of family and community, and it reminds people of painful experiences.” Boyle Street assists up to 500 people a day in the winter months, offering food, dry clothing, and Christmas-related programs and events to restore some much-needed joy.

    Christian non-profit organization, The Mustard Seed, opens their doors to provide hot meals six days of the week to those in need, as well as clothing and medicine at no cost. Among their numerous housing and employment services, The Mustard Seed also provides two large-scale Christmas dinners for up to 300 people each night. “We serve them turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy…everything!” says Gary St. Amand, Director of Basic Services.

    One of The Mustard Seed’s bigger focuses around Christmas is on children and youth services, especially with their Kids Christmas Party. The party is organized by an event planner, invitations are sent out to schools, and each child receives a donated gift. Most importantly, the children are given a chance to be a regular kid again, free from worries related to poverty. “They get to forget their everyday concerns and enjoy the holidays,” says St. Amand.

    When asked what items were needed the most, the first answer of each organization was unanimous. “Warm, clean socks,” said Berger. “Feet take the biggest toll in the wintertime, especially once they’ve gotten wet.” Additional essential items include winter jackets, scarves, toques, mittens, long underwear, boots, blankets, non-perishable food, volunteer services, and monetary donations. “The volume of people relying on our services increases in the winter,” says St. Armand. “We need more resources to do more for them.”

    In addition to the essential care and support services that these three organizations offer, the province of Alberta committed $38.5 million to support such agencies in providing shelter for the homeless. The Government of Alberta has also embarked on the Alberta Secretariat for Action on Homelessness, a 10-year initiative to end homelessness in Alberta by 2019. So far, the initiative has found success in helping over 4,400 homeless Albertans off the streets.

    But for many, 2019 is too late. Winter is almost here and it won’t be long until Edmonton’s homeless shelters and support organizations are feeling the pressures of winter demand. I am only weeks away from watching people, human beings, try to fight off extreme temperatures and starvation in one of the most prosperous cities in Canada. I don’t know how much longer I will be able to enjoy my turkey dinner each year.

    Let’s give Christmas a change this year. If each of us helps in some small way, whether through donating or volunteering, I believe that nobody has to freeze this winter. Even better, we can strive to end homelessness before 2019. “I want to thank the people of Edmonton for their generosity,” says St. Amand. “I’m always amazed at their passion towards people struggling with poverty. Please continue to be aware and learn about what’s going on in your city. We have a lot we can give and do to make change.”


Amy Bridges is a freelance writer, aspiring novelist, and recent graduate of the Professional Writing program at Grant MacEwan University.


Boyle Street accepts clean clothing, blankets, and non-perishable food donations at 10116 - 105 Ave between 9:00am-4:30pm, and monetary donations via PayPal at

Hope Mission has a list of essential items at and encourages volunteers to help serve at Monday Christmas meals by calling 780-422-2018 (ext 266).

The Mustard Seed has a list of essential items at and encourages continued non-perishable food donations to the Edmonton Food Bank.

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