In comparison to last year, the Airdrie 1st Club has seen a 75 per cent increase in demand for their holiday hamper program. 

"We know that there's a huge need, and our program is focused on Airdrie residents only," underlined Heather Harke, media member for the Airdrie 1st Club. "It is quite vital this year; there are so many people who are essentially working poor and living less than paycheck to paycheck."

As the Airdrie 1st Club prepares for the opening of its 2023 donation centre in Towerlane Mall this coming Monday, Harke says that work is already well underway when it comes to gathering donations and items for the hampers. 

"We just really need the word out there that the need [has] increased and that we're very concerned; we don't want to tap the limit of recipients we can give to. We do have criteria, but our criteria is so that we can make sure that we're helping as many people in need in Airdrie as we can."

When asked what the Airdrie 1st Club is looking for, Harke said that cash donations are always welcome. But gift cards to grocery stores are also vital. Harke said that if one is planning to buy gift cards, it may be more prudent to buy denominations of $25, rather than one gift card totalling $100. 

"We can really direct that to a lot more families]; so the gift cards are critical for grocery stores," she said. 

As far as toy wishlists go, one of the most requested items was for Barbie dolls (which shouldn't be surprising due to the smash cult hit movie Barbie this year). Lego building sets, as well as Roblox gift cards, are also in high demand; though Harke stressed that any toys are welcome.

Following tradition, each year the Airdrie 1st Club tries to hone in on a specific area of the population, this year teenage boys and men have been chosen. 

"[These] are the two biggest categories that are sometimes overlooked. Oftentimes we have to make up things for the men of the family or the teenagers. It's easier when you go shopping to buy something fun like a toy or a game than it is to go to Canadian Tire and buy gift cards," she explained.

Harke said that when it comes to gift ideas for teenagers, gift cards that allow them to socialize when friends and peers, allow for a feeling of inclusivity. She suggested gift cards to various coffee places like Starbucks or McDonalds, or mall gift cards.

To ramp up donations and awareness, the fifth annual Sirens Charity Hockey Game will once again be happening on Sunday, December 2 - with entry by donation to the hamper program. While the hockey game is promising special guest stars as well as first responders battling it out on the ice, Harke also reminded Airdrie residents that there is another family-fun event that is happening, also in support of the hamper program.

"Singfest 2023-A Night of Holiday Cheer is another really big event for us. It's at Bert church theatre - with tickets being sold for $20. All the proceeds from the tickets go to our organization," she said. "The incredible talent that we have locally will blow your ears [off]."

In 2022, the Airdrie 1st hamper program distributed 370 hampers. 

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