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Calgary’s Women In Need Society expecting a busy holiday season as families struggle to make ends meet

Women In Need Society (WINS) has launched its Make a Home for the Holidays campaign at a time when the need for help in Calgary is at an all-time high.

“Currently, one in three single moms will struggle to put food on the table, let alone have the extra resources to celebrate the season with her children,” says WINS president and CEO Karen Ramchuk.

“We expect to be especially busy this holiday season as people struggle to make ends meet.”

Ramchuk says it’s difficult for families who are worried about their basic needs to enjoy the holiday season, so the organization does everything it can to help.

WINS’ House to Home program provides necessities such as clothing, furniture, bedding, hygiene items, and emergency food all year long.

Going beyond the basics

In the lead-up to Christmas, the program expands to include grocery gift cards, which give recipients the freedom to choose how to spend them depending on their traditions, dietary needs, and cultural preferences.

“Maybe there’s something special that your mom made for you when you were a little girl and you want to make that for your daughter, but you can’t afford the groceries to make it,” Ramchuk says.

“Maybe for someone else, their priority is just having healthy food to eat. So it really gives the gift of choice, which is really important for us.”

Another program WINS runs leading up to the holidays is Handbags with Heart, which sees gently used purses filled with essential items and gift cards.

“We make sure that mom has a gift, too… because she will do everything she can to help everyone and put everyone else first, and she’s usually forgotten about,” Ramchuk says.

Double the need this year

WINS also provides gift rooms where moms in need can pick out donated toys and other gifts for their children.

“We invite the people we serve to come in and get what they need so that they can have a holiday celebration,” Ramchuk says, adding that 300 people took advantage of the gift room last year.

She expects that number to be closer to 600 this year.

“Because we also support the people that are fleeing Ukraine from the war and the Afghan refugees, our basic needs program has been running at double,” Ramchuk says.

“So we’re doing everything we can to try to gather as much as we can so that we can help people to ensure that their children have those memories, too… We want to try to make sure that people have happy memories.”

How to support

The best way to support the WINS Make a Home for the Holidays campaign is to donate cash.

“When people donate cash, it gives us the freedom to help people how they need to be helped,” Ramchuk says.

Shopping at and donating gently used clothing and furniture at WINS’ six stores also helps.

“We take the dollars from our stores and they pay for our community programs,” says Ramchuk, adding Twice New thrift boxes are another way to support.

WINS relies on volunteers to help with donation centre and thrift store operations. Opportunities can be found online.

Volunteers will be at Ikea on Dec. 10, 11, 17, and 18 selling poinsettias for a minimum $10 donation to WINS.

Thankful for the generosity

Ramchuk is thankful to Calgarians for their generosity, their spirit, and their willingness to give.

“Without that, WINS wouldn’t exist,” she says, recalling a recent generous donation from a nine-year-old boy who earned some money to help people in need.

His parents topped the donation up to $1,000 and Ramchuk says he ended up helping two charities with the cash.

“He wanted to give that to people that were living in shelters in downtown Calgary… He came to WINS, he bought $1,000 worth of product from us, then he took all that product over and donated it to the Mustard Seed.”

Ramchuk says shopping and donating to WINS ends up helping neighbours, friends, and community members in need.

“We’re local. Your dollars stay here and we couldn’t do it without the support of Calgary. Calgarians are just so generous. We’re so blessed to live in this city. It’s just an amazing place.”

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