PA woman collecting Christmas hampers for families in need

Hampers in lieu of annual dinner at St. Mary's High School

(L to R - Isabelle Impey and Neru Franc) Neru Franc dropped off donations to add to hampers being organized by Isabelle Impey (Kelly Skjerven/Daily Herald)

Isabelle Impey has been hosting Christmas dinner for families in need for 17 years now.

She has help from family, volunteers, local businesses, and politicians.

This year she won’t be able to host the thousands of people she usually does at St. Mary High School with COVID-19 restrictions in place.

Impey says they served 2,600 people at last year’s dinner.

“It’s going to be a very different Christmas for us,” she said.

Volunteers have been busy putting together Christmas hampers for families instead. Impey has been taking requests and tailors the hampers depending on the size of the family.

In her garage, reusable bags full of eggs, buns, oatmeal, and other groceries fill tables and the floor. She also has potatoes, turkeys and hams ready for families.

Some toys have been donated as well but Impey said the main focus is making sure kids are fed.

Volunteers wear PPE when putting together the hampers and delivering them. The hampers are left at the doors to make sure everyone keeps their distance.

“There’s so many beautiful people who know what we’ve done before and know we’re worried about families and they’ve just stepped in…I love being a part of PA because they step in when the need is there,” Impey said.

She added that volunteers from the Christmas dinner have been calling her and asking if there’s anything they can do.

Although the deadline to request a hamper passed on Friday, Impey said if there’s anything left over she will continue to give out to people in need.

“I’m sure there’s some out there that aren’t calling or they haven’t reached out and I wish they would, because we don’t want anyone to go without.”

113 hampers had gone out since Friday.

Impey also tried reaching out to other organizations to see if she could cook and pass out Christmas dinner to people experiencing homelessness but she didn’t have any luck. She’s been busy making sure families have food on Christmas and is hoping someone in the community can focus on the homeless population on Christmas Day.

“I was uncomfortable with knowing that there’s nothing I could do, but there’s only so much I guess I can do from my end,” she added.

Wes Erlendson owner of Prince Albert Safeway donated $3,000 worth of food for the hampers. In previous years, Erlendson has donated and helped cook turkeys for the dinner.

Neru Franc also dropped off donations on Friday afternoon. She is a dream broker with SaskSport and also has a partnership with Saskatchewan Rivers School Division.

Body Mechanics Salon and Spa donated hair dryers and other products, Jumpstart donated sleds, and the Literacy Network donated packages as well.

Her family has helped slice turkey at the dinner for almost four years now.

“It’s just the type of person I am, I just feel it’s important to give back to the community that helped make you who you are and I also like to set an example for my family, my kids to always give back,” Franc said.

Franc also wanted to thank teachers and social workers for collecting and delivering donations, and “everything they’ve done to help the students this Christmas.”

Monetary, food and toy donations came from many individuals and businesses including Don Robins from the West Flat Community Centre, the Hargrave family, PA Development Corporation, Lakeland Ford, Saskatchewan Indigenous Institute of Technology, Bev Benson, the Chatsis sisters, Tanya Tootoosis, Judy Chan, Murdine McCreath, Meg Shatilla, the Goertzen family, Janine Favreau from Nutters, and Christine Thompson.

Impey said there were others who donated and continue to donate and she is thankful for all of them.