Christmas will be a lot merrier for at least 17 families in Martensville thanks to the efforts of the city’s firefighters and other volunteers.
Christmas hampers containing food, toys and essential household items were packed by dozens of volunteers at the Martensville Fire Hall on Tuesday, December 20. The hampers were slated to be delivered to recipient families on Wednesday evening, December 21.
The Martensville Fire Department’s Christmas Hamper program began 22 years ago, according to project coordinator Lieutenant Larry Sigfusson.
“It’s an expression of the Christmas spirit,” said Sigfusson during an interview at the fire hall while taking a break from sorting toys destined for the hampers. “It’s a way of giving back to the community and showing that people in this city care about one another.”
Martensville firefighter James Taylor, who is stepping into the role of coordinator of the program, said the amount of donations from the community is up this year over last.
But the need for the hampers has also increased, added Taylor.
“We’re packing 17 hampers, which is a few more than last year,” said Taylor. “The demand varies a bit from year to year, depending on circumstances.”
Sigfusson said the slowdown in the economy and layoffs in some sectors may have had an impact.
“About half of our hampers going out this year are being delivered to families that were on the list last year,” said Sigfusson. “We contact all the recipients from the year before when we begin collecting donations in late November. We also put out a notice letting people know they can nominate a needy family for the program.
“It’s confidential,” he added. “Nominations are made to Martensville City Hall staff, who pass on the names to us.”
Volunteers began arriving at the Martensville Fire Hall shortly before 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 20 to pack the hampers. Taylor said the food supplies were separated and inspected to ensure there were no expired items, and then individual hampers were packed according to the needs of recipient families.
“We’ve got lots of helpers this year, including the Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, and the Air Cadet squadron,” said Taylor.
Sigfusson said the schools in Martensville are very generous in organizing donations to the hamper program. Service organizations including the Lions Club, private businesses and individuals also chip in, he added.
Sigfusson said the Christmas hamper program is just one of many community-based initiatives the fire department is involved in. The volunteer fire department also does public education on fire safety and sponsors a bike helmet safety program.