For almost 20 years, Elaun has donated money at Christmas Bureau desks in Edmonton’s malls. “If I had an extra $20 in my pocket, I’d drop it in the donation box at their table,” she says. “That was my own personal Christmas tradition.”

Last year, she decided to share the spirit of giving to the Christmas Bureau with her Brownies and Sparks units. For years, Brownies and Sparks have taken part in the Edmonton Girl Guides Holiday Spirit Challenge, doing a community service project in lieu of a Christmas gift exchange. Elaun encouraged the girls and other leaders to sponsor a Christmas Bureau hamper as their project; a challenge the 28 girls, aged 5-8, their families and the leaders embraced whole-heartedly.

“There are people that don’t get to have Christmas dinner without help from the community. That’s a hard concept for a lot of kids to imagine. It was a chance to learn about the spirit of giving,” Elaun says.

The Christmas Bureau matched Elaun and the girls with a family of five kids, aged one to 13, and a single mom. Using a suggested list of hamper items from the Christmas Bureau, the girls each chose foods they wanted to share with their sponsored family.

“They got excited about sharing their favourite foods with someone else, says Elaun. “They learned they didn’t need a present; it wasn’t about them anymore, it was about giving not receiving.”

With the hamper stuffed full of festive food, Elaun tried to call the mom to arrange dropping off the box. She discovered the family’s phone had been disconnected, highlighting the fact that the family needed help.

Elaun and her husband, Jay, took a chance and drove over to the family’s house in the hope they’d be home. As she walked towards the door a week before Christmas, Elaun remembers thinking it didn’t feel like Christmas for her yet.

The mom answered the door with two sweet-faced children at her side, gazing up at Elaun. “The little ones were so excited when they saw the hamper — they were squealing. It was so amazing, so moving,” says Elaun. “And not just for me; my husband had the same feeling. Right then we decided we would do it again.”

Many Great Ways to Help