By COLLIN GALLANT on December 23, 2023.
A good meal, a laugh and a warm smile at Christmas – social service groups and volunteers in Medicine Hat are working hard this Christmas to bring the warmth and bounty of the season to those who need it.
For decades, the Kiwanis Club has staged its Christmas lunch to give anyone of any circumstance a chance to be with others on the holiday.
Others are now wrapping up Christmas campaigns, and having provided hampers, food vouchers and toys to those in need or need help this season.
Officials with the Root Cellar food and wellness hub estimate they will have dealt with 2,400 families in December.
“It’s the highest that we’ve ever seen,” said Melissa Mullis, the Hub’s executive director. “We’re seeing more two-income families, seniors, students and groups that have never had to access our services before.”
While donations are generally down – a sign of wider economic stress, she said – generosity is meeting increased need.
“Giving is top of mind at this time of year, and we’re seeing a lot of kindness. January and February are our busiest times, and we’re anticipating that will be the same this year.”
As usual, the United Way will take over the Root Cellar location on Maple Avenue on Christmas Day to provide a dinner at 5 p.m.
Earlier in the day, the city’s three Kiwanis Clubs will join to put provide turkey, trimmings and treats for about 200 Hatters who registered for the annual Christmas afternoon dinner.
Long-time supporters include South Country Co-op and the Medicine Hat Lodge.
Food is prepared by volunteers at the Veiner Centre and helping hands greet guests, hand out candy canes, serve the meal and clean up, not to mention turns on the piano.
The goal is to create an event celebrating togetherness for “those who don’t have anywhere else to be.”
“That could be a couple, or a family of three,” said Derrick Ironside, the volunteer co-ordinator of the event.
Registration is preferred, but no one will be turned from the door.
“It’s interesting but I’ve always thought that it is as much for the volunteers as those who attend,” said Ironsides.
“It is a little bit of work and a whole lot of fun.”
The Mustard Seed Impact Centre and the Salvation Army provided meals on Friday.
St. Barnabas Anglican Church will hold its Saturday Meal Program on Dec. 23 and 30 at 2 p.m. at the Fourth Street location.
The Root Cellar also distributed 255 pre-made dinner packages provided by Rosscoe’s Pub this week (an annual tradition), but will now be closed until Jan. 2. A list of agencies that can provide emergency hampers is on its social media accounts.
They include the Medicine Hat Women’s Shelter, Public Library, Community Housing, the Sanare Centre, Permanent Supportive Housing initiative of McMan Family Services and Saamis Immigration, among others.
Mullis also said the Root Cellar plans to promote ongoing and monthly donations in the new year to even out the cycles, she said.