In 1940, the Edmonton Council of Social Agencies formed a Christmas Committee to coordinate the Christmas hamper programs being run by various social agencies in the city. The agencies involved with the Council agreed that in the past there had been wide variation from agency to agency in the quality of Christmas hampers, resulting in some injustice and dissatisfaction.
The Christmas Committee developed a standard for agencies to use in preparing Christmas hampers. The suggested average hamper value brought “a measure of uniformity to the distribution of Christmas Cheer for the first time. Many small clubs which formerly gave lavish hampers were persuaded to help a larger number of families moderately, while other groups provided more adequately for smaller numbers.” (1940 ECSA Annual Report)
The Council office became the centre for the “Christmas Exchange’, which kept records of all families recommended for hampers each Christmas season. In its first year, 54 organizations used the exchange to avoid duplication of services and ensure that the available resources reached as many families in need as possible. The annual report from 1941 states that 1,070 families received help from various organizations associated with the Christmas Exchange. Fundraising was a combination of cash and food donations.
The group continued to operate under the “Christmas Exchange” name until 1954. In that year, the group changed its name to the Christmas Bureau. In 1954, the Christmas Bureau served 1,600 families. Starting in 1960, a seasonal staff person was hired to coordinate the program; this addition had massive impact on the profile of the organization and usage of the program. By 1970, over 15,000 Edmontonians received assistance from the Christmas Bureau in the form of gift certificates and food hampers.
The Edmonton Council of Social Agencies role as the coordinator of the Christmas Bureau came to an end in 1973 when the Christmas Bureau formally registered as a separate society and became the Christmas Bureau of Edmonton (June 7, 1973).
Since 1940, the Christmas Bureau has maintained one tradition - to provide a festive meal to Edmontonians in need at Christmas time through the promotion of the spirit of Christmas caring and sharing in the city of Edmonton. The Christmas Bureau has kept paced with the changing face of Edmonton to ensure that our service is culturally inclusive encompassing all religions and traditions.
At the Christmas Bureau we are a connector of over 100 social service agencies providing those in need a one stop application process for Christmas services. The client information is compiled by the Christmas Bureau into a centralized client database to deliver food hampers or food certificates. The client list is also used by 630 CHED Santas Anonymous for the delivery of toys to children age 0 to 12 years and to provide gift cards for teens aged 13 to 17 through the Edmonton Sun Adopt-A-Teen program.