All photos courtesy of Leduc Santa’s Helpers

Rafflebox Spotlight: Leduc Santa’s Helpers - Santa following protocols during COVID and how they are helping families in need!

We sat down with Cynthia Wiebe, Treasurer of Leduc Santa’s Helpers to talk about how Santa and the Elves are doing up North, the strangest toy donations they’ve ever received and to learn more about how their organization helps families in need during the Christmas season.

How are Santa and the Elves dealing with Christmas this year?

Santa wants all the kids to know that he and the Elves are working day and night to get all the toys ready for his sleigh ride on Christmas Eve! The Elves are working double time fueled by cookies and hot chocolate, and the Reindeer are doing practice runs around the North Pole!

Everyone is following the safety protocols to the letter, with Mrs. Claus overseeing the entire operation. No-one is getting sick on her watch, especially not Santa!!

How did Leduc Santa’s Helpers get started as an organization? How did you get involved with Leduc Santa Helpers?

Back in 1983, good friends Earl Logan and Duane Rowles agreed to guest bartend at Coasters lounge in Leduc where they raised $25 for their efforts. Along with their wives — Julie & Sylvia, they decided to donate the proceeds towards Christmas gifts for local families in need. “A very good time was had by all in attendance.”

That first year they had so much fun, they were hooked on raising money for charity! So the second year they participated & raised $75 which they again donated to this cause.

In 1985 they decided to run a small raffle that raised $480 and after that there was no stopping them!

Feeling so strongly about being able to bring joy to local children at Christmas time, in 1986, the Leduc Santa’s Helpers Auction was born. It is our major fundraiser each year and the rest, as they say, is history!

In 1989 the Leduc Santa’s Helpers Society became incorporated in Alberta as a Non-Profit Society and in 2016 we became a CRA Registered Charity.

My involvement started in 2005 when I was recruited by Lori Logan, one of Earl & Julie’s daughters, who along with Mom Julie, sisters Bonnie, Debbie, Sherry and brother Dean made up a large part of the Auction Committee. Over the years, the Grandchildren of Earl and Julie have also become involved. Although still very young, there are Great Grandchildren in the wings who I am sure will take up the cause when they are old enough.

We understand that Leduc Santa Helpers provides Christmas food hampers and toys for families in need. How long have you been running?

2020 is the 37th year for Leduc Santa’s Helpers.

Planning for the auction, selling raffle tickets and canvassing businesses along with the rest of the group of dedicated volunteers, we usually see between $35,000 & $55,000 in revenue. A large portion of the money we raise each year goes towards paying for the food portion of the hampers.

Many amazing individuals and businesses in our area donate toys and other gift items (pajamas, socks, mitts, etc.) that make up the toy/gift portion of the hampers.

What makes Leduc Santa Helpers unique?

It is definitely our Annual Live Auction that makes us unique! From humble beginnings we have grown to roughly 50 loyal volunteers and typically see around 200 people in attendance. The guest auctioneers keep the event lively, though there have been enough bidding wars over the years that make each event memorable.

Are there any stories you would like to share about Leduc Santa Helpers?

Steve Newsome, who is a local (Spruce Grove) Country performer, has donated a personal intimate concert to the auction for the past 3 years — in 2017, the winning bid of $5250 was a record for the auction.

Over the years, many volunteers have been involved in the success of the organization. For instance, Ernie Wilke, a local auctioneer has donated his time and talents since the very first auction in 1986.

At the Hamper Depot, the eight weeks leading up to delivery night are busy, filled with fun and excitement — especially when a toy suddenly starts acting up as if it is saying, “pick me, pick me”! Some days we feel like the Elf on the Shelf is messing with us and re-arranging the toys.

There are so many great people involved with this organization, from the individuals & businesses that donate money or items, to all the volunteers who give their time to the wonderful people that attend the auction and spend money to support our cause, and to Leduc First Responders who deliver all the hampers in time for Christmas. We would not be as successful as we are without each and every one.

What is the craziest toy anyone has ever donated?

It’s hard to choose just one — every year there is a “favorite” toy among the hamper depot volunteers. This year it is the Baby Shark Puppet that sings as you move the mouth — a few years ago it was a 6-foot-tall stuffed Teddy Bear!

How many families have you helped so far?

Over the past 10 years, we have provided hampers to 2,000 families which includes over 3,400 children.

How has COVID affected your organization and the families you help? What changes are being made to the drive this year?

We have been slowly building a reserve to allow us to operate for one year without any donations or revenue, so we are prepared to assist as many families as need our help this year. Within the first two weeks of registration, 75% of the applicants have never accessed our program before — if this holds, then we are looking at roughly 400 families requesting help in 2020. For many families, being unable to work for even part of this year due to Covid-19, puts a basic Christmas beyond their financial reach. Our vision is that every family, regardless of personal circumstance, has a Merry Christmas.

We are not able to proceed with the normal fundraising activities due to the COVID-19 protocols — the Live Auction, paper Raffle tickets, etc. so we have reached out to the community asking for monetary donations. Along with the Cash Raffle hosted by Rafflebox (The online 50/50 Cash Raffle is very different from a traditional paper ticket raffle, but at the end of the day, much easier. All the reports are available daily and best of all, we don’t have to handle any of the banking!), we held a Drive Thru Toy Drive on November 21st with over 500 toys being donated. There were around 120 vehicles that came by, dropped off toys and some made monetary donations as well.

Donation boxes for toys, pajamas, mitts, socks, etc. are out in the community — locations are listed on our website.

How can people get involved?

Very simple — go to our website www.LeducSantasHelpers.ca for information on how to purchase Raffle tickets, find a donation box location, register to volunteer at the hamper depot or make monetary donations.

Leduc Santa’s Helpers are currently running a raffle with Rafflebox! Click here to support their Raffle: https://www.rafflebox.ca/raffle/lshs

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