Taking back the spirit of the season

Focusing on the giving instead of the gifts will leave you with a big heart

If you find yourself snarling when people talk about “the spirit of giving” during the holidays perhaps it’s time to take break from shopping and put your energy towards something that will restore your shrunken Grinch heart. Yes there is no denying that the season has been commercialized to a nausea-inducing extent but instead of complaining about it why not do something about it?

Many Albertans are suffering and even cynics can’t deny that the season brings attention to those in need and encourages people to offer help which is never a bad thing. And being part of a good cause is a great cure for the holiday blues.

Of course the easiest way to contribute is to simply hand over a cheque — and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that (just make sure you get the most bang for your buck by checking how much an organizations spends on administration versus programs). But if you have the time getting involved as a volunteer has even greater rewards and will take that spirit of giving far beyond the holidays.

The following are just five examples of the many worthy organizations.


Calgary offers many fabulous opportunities for children to experience arts and entertainment but many never get the opportunity. John Dalziel founded Kids Up Front 10 years ago after he saw empty seats at a Calgary Flames game and came up with a plan to collect unused tickets and fill those seats with kids who could otherwise not afford to attend. Today the organization sends children to hockey games concerts plays and even the zoo. In addition to accepting tickets from people and businesses that aren’t able to use them the organization also welcomes gift vouchers cash and tickets purchased specifically for donation (two or more tickets are required). Program co-ordinator Evan Patterson says Kids Up Front recognizes that children need more than food and clothing to thrive. “It’s our mandate here at Kids Up Front that we’re nourishing the soul.” kidsupfront.com


The holidays can be lonely for seniors living on their own and financially stressful for those taking care of grandchildren. Calgary Family Services runs a holiday program that delivers gift bags or goodie bags to seniors who are isolated and larger hampers for seniors who are in dire need and unable to make ends meet. This year the organization has also partnered with Meals on Wheels to deliver meals between December 23 and 27 for seniors who can’t cook. Volunteer co-ordinator Sunny Shuang says workers refer recipients and the need has been growing in recent years. “Last year we got 100 cards back from our seniors to say thank you” she adds. “That was overwhelming.” Want to keep on giving? There is also an ongoing visitor program to provide seniors with much-appreciated company. 403-286-1811 or sunnys@calgaryfamily.org .


Other Alberta residents that could use some support are our endangered species. Why not buy some wildlife habitat for the animal lover in your life? The Nature Conservancy of Canada is a private non-profit group that spends more than 85 per cent of the funding it receives on protecting ecologically significant lands. For $40 you can buy one acre of prairie grassland alpine meadow wetland or old-growth forest; for $80 you can help protect the endangered burrowing owl; or for $160 show some love for the grizzlies (they don’t get enough from the provincial government). A gift donation comes with a certificate and a calendar of wildlife and landscapes from across Canada. Just looking for a stocking stuffer? Join the Bad Tie Boycott for $12. natureconservancy.ca


Show your appreciation for the arts by throwing a party to benefit artists — invite all your friends and request a small donation for Elephant Artist Relief a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the health well-being and livelihood of professional artists in Calgary. EAR established in 2007 recognizes that those who have dedicated their lives to the practice of making art often have no safety net in times of crisis. Mark Dicey a professional artist who is on EAR’s board of directors says the goal is to raise enough money to be able to provide financial aid if an artist’s studio burns down or they have a medical emergency. To date the minimal amount of money EAR has raised has been granted on a case-by-case basis but it is now in the process of establishing formal criteria and applying for charitable status. Dicey says for years artists have been helping each other out in times of need and EAR was created so they would be able to do that on a bigger scale. “Taking care of our own is a big part of this” he adds. elephantartistrelief.com