Calgary’s surrounding communities have plans to continue to give back this year through charitable events.

Many organizations in towns help their communities by holding toy drives, generating food donations, helping the local hospital expand and providing gifts for those who are in need. 

Surrounding communities, such as High River and Didsbury, have distinct ways of giving back.

A Town That Keeps On Giving

In early October, High River, a town of almost 13,000, hosted its third annual I Love Art charity fundraiser run by The Rotary Club of High RiverAll artwork sold in the event went to the High River Hospital’s cancer centre renovation project.

Event organizer, Shelley Bannister, said this event gives local artists and the community the opportunity to display and sell their art for a good cause.

“It was through this interest that we thought that an art sale as a fundraiser would be a good initiative.” Bannister said.  “So each year we do it, it gets bigger and bigger.”

This year they had 438 pieces of art for sale andsuccessfully sold 92 pieces, raising approximately $35,000 for the cancer centre renovation project. Having a charity in a small town is key, Bannister says, because when the community benefits, more locals are likely to give back.

“People in High River who have been impacted by the flood [of 2013] and felt that they received a lot of support from their community members and they have a sense of wanting to give back or to pass the good will along,” said Bannister. 

Event organizer Shelley Bannister (right) with fellow Rotary club member Ev Doherty are proud to have sold 92 pieces of art at this year’s I Love Art event. Photo provided by Shelley Bannister

A Community United

Although Didsbury is a small town of less than 5,000 people, during the holiday season the community comes together to make sure no one is left in need.

Linda Sirr and Linda Regner started a program called Christmas Helpers over 30 years ago. The idea behind this program is for Didsbury residents to give back to one another.

On Dec. 18, volunteers will gather in the gym of the Zion Evangelical Missionary Church to wrap gifts and prepare both perishable and non-perishable food donations.

Volunteers will deliver the premade boxed food hampers and presents to those who have requested a hamper or who have been recommended for a hamper. Last year nearly 130 hampers were distributed and 90 volunteers got together to wrap these hampers.

In more recent years, locals have volunteered to sponsor a food hamper of different sizes to feed a family for a month, instead of the Zion Church purchasing food to be donated every Christmas.

Along with the food hampers, Didsbury residents also set up Angel Trees around the town in their shops. Christmas trees are decorated with paper cut-outs of angels. The Cherubs are marked with different ages and genders of children. Didsburians pick an angel from the trees, purchase the present of their choosing, and donate the gifts to the Christmas Helpers program.

More than 400 tickets were sold to the Friday Oct. 2 gala event held at the High River Autoplex. Photo provided by I Love Art Facebook Page

Deb Rion, executive secretary at the Zion Church, maintains that this is a great time of year because everyone comes together to help out other members of the community whether people are donating food, money, or time –and they may not even need a hamper- all to help each other.

“A lot of the people show up on the wrapping night [to help]. It’s quite a fun community event when people come to wrap all the gifts and stuff, and a lot of people come and volunteer on delivery day too,” said Rion.

Sirr agrees with Rion that the community works together for the benefit of the greater good. the words “community comes together” is being repeated often.

“Everybody is receiving something [from this program]. We have people who come and wrap gifts,” said Sirr. “People come and they’re just so excited to be there. You can tell they want to be there. That’s what they do for Christmas. Everybody wins. Whether they’re the person who gives the names, gives the hamper, or receives it.”

vstey@cjournal.ca & mkadey@cjournal.ca

The editor responsible for this article is Masha Scheele and can be contacted at mscheele@cjournal.ca

Thumbnail courtesy of Lea Smaldon