EDITOR’S NOTE: This article, submitted by Susan Amos, is part of a monthly series, “Cheers for Volunteers,” which highlights local volunteers and their organizations.
This month, in our series Cheers for Volunteers, we cheer Janet Geier for her work with the Sackville Community Association which, for many locals, is synonymous with its Christmas Cheer program.
Every year, the Sackville Community Association makes sure everyone in Sackville has Christmas by preparing grocery vouchers, clothing and toys for needy households.
Less well known is the fact the association also provides temporary assistance in the form of financial support for utilities, housing costs and medical-related expenses to households facing exceptional circumstances.
What makes the Christmas Cheer program special?
“It’s the people,” declares Janet. “The volunteers are amazing and the clients have such inspiring and courageous stories.
“And it’s also inspiring to see the generosity of the town.”
The association raises over $30,000 every year to fund its work.
The association also helps youth of the community with recreational subsidies and grants to local schools for breakfast and/or lunch programs as well as school supplies.
Janet has been volunteering with the Christmas Cheer program for 27 years. She started by helping out on ‘packing day,’ a day each December when the Christmas Cheer packages are prepared for distribution at Christmas.
She cites Fran Smith as the one who encouraged her to get involved and who was a role model for Janet throughout the years in terms of volunteer work.
Now, Janet is one of several people responsible for the organization and coordination of the Christmas Cheer program. This involves packing age-appropriate toy bags for the children, organizing grocery vouchers and gift certificates for the teenagers, collecting second-hand clothing and bedding as well as overseeing packing day.
About 250 households use the Christmas Cheer program. Janet says this number has remained relatively constant over the years although she notes there are now fewer families and more couples and singles households than previously.
The Sackville Community Association partners with many other organizations in implementing the Christmas Cheer program including local churches, quilting groups and workplaces. The Daybreak Activity Centre makes story sacks for the Christmas packages while the Tantramar Family Resource Centre, in addition to helping with the story sacks, provides coats which they collect during their annual fall coat drive.
Why has Janet volunteered with the Christmas Cheer program for so many years?
“It’s immensely satisfying,” she explains. “Some of my best childhood memories centre around Christmas. The Christmas Cheer program is a concrete way of helping people to put food on the table and gifts under the tree.”
Elizabeth Wells, chair of the Sackville Community Association, describes Janet as “the heart and soul of Christmas Cheer.”
“We would literally not be able to do such a good job for our clients if it wasn’t for Janet’s selfless service.”
Janet is also a board member of the Sackville Community Association. In addition, she volunteers with the local food bank and at her church where she is a member of the Worship and Sanctuary Committee which involves planning and setting up for services.
“Anything which encourages people to volunteer is a good idea,” says Janet. “The volunteer
data base can tell people what opportunities are available.”
She would like to see some sort of framework established for volunteering to help coordinate efforts and ensure volunteers know about others doing similar kinds of work in the community.
Want to help out?
If you would like to help with the Sackville Christmas Cheer program, there are a number of options.
Come to Saint Paul’s Anglican Church – 125 Main, across from the pond – for ‘packing day’ which is Thursday, Dec. 13, from 9 to 11 a.m. Another pair of helping hands is always welcome.
Check your closets for second-hand winter clothing, bedding and towels. Bring these items to the Sackville United Church at 110 Main (use the door in the Service Canada parking lot around back) Mondays, Wednesdays or Fridays from 9 a.m. until noon. Get them in by Dec. 21 to ensure they are available for this year’s Christmas Cheer.
New clothing, toys and books for children age 12 and under are also welcome at the same location.
And, monetary donations can be left at the Royal Bank.
Janet, many thanks for the wonderful work you have done for so many years to ensure everyone in our community has Christmas. We truly appreciate your dedication and commitment to this initiative. Sackville is lucky to have you!
Check out our local volunteer data base at volunteertantramar.ca. Whether you’re an organization looking for volunteers, someone already involved in volunteering or a new volunteer looking for an opportunity to help out, go into the data base and get yourself
registered. If you need assistance in registering, drop by the Sackville Commons at 64 Main
Street, in the old fire hall, any time Monday to Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.