Sarah Reed was a big help at the 2017 Lions Christmas Express handing the volunteer firefighters the special messages label made by students in Kelly Ross' class. (Healey file photo)

Organizers confirm no Lions Christmas Parade, school food drives this year

FALL RIVER:  The Lions Christmas Express will look different this holiday season.

Like many things, with COVID19 health guideline protocol and restrictions in place, it has forced organizers to get creative about how they continue to help those who are supported by the Christmas Express. In years past the non-profit organization, headed by Paula Beck-MacKenzie and Stephanie Dube among others usually provides food boxes to upwards of 1o0 families in the Fall River area.

The food that is in those boxes is usually collected through the Lions Christmas Parade and food drives at local schools. However, Beck-MacKenzie and Dube both confirmed they won’t be able to do that this year.

“We know we won’t be having the parade so we can’t get food collected from that, and the school’s food drives also won’t happen,” said Beck-MacKenzie.

With that said, they are still aiming to provide the Christmas meal to recipients in the community, it just means they must do it differently. That involves taking more donations from the community, including the possibility of having the schools raise money through special Spirit days in the lead up, with a cool reward at the end for the top school that raises the most money.

“We’re going to ask more for monetary donations to create those Christmas hampers,” said Beck-MacKenzie.

She said the Christmas Express will continue to support local and source out the food for the hampers from Sobeys in Fall River and The Vegetorium.  They are looking at doing a drive-thru delivery service as they did during COVID19 and a delivery service for those that can not come and pick up

“We’re still looking at doing the traditional Christmas dinner, breakfast, and a few extras, and we’re going to try and do the gift support for kids under 13 like we have in the past,” she said. “People are very generous in our community and have always stepped up.”

Beck-MacKenzie said the Lions Christmas Express can survive a year taking a hit as such, but they’re hopeful the community will step up.

“Every dollar is important, so for those who brought in two cans of soup, that would be $5,” said Dube. ‘We don’t want people thinking they have to donate $50, it’s that every cent will count this year because all the recipients won’t get all the cans and pasta sauce that they normally would.

“The money will go towards the turkey and fresh veggies, bread, and fruit.”

An idea that will be proposed to the schools is that they do a spirit day every Friday and the money the students donate to partake is donated to the Lions Christmas Express. At the end, the school with the most money raised will get to dump a bucket of water over Reporter Pat Healey in late December, before school breaks for the Christmas break.

“That is definitely an idea we’re going to hope they can do,” said Dube.

Beck-MacKenzie said there won’t be any sorting of food , packing night, all that great community spirit events that have traditional taken place.

“I know it’s a little lost this year, we just want to let everyone know the spirit of the community will live on through the families still receiving the hampers and gift support,” she said, “and in reality that is the reason that we do this.”

To donate you can checkout the CanadaHelps website: https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/fallriverexpress/

Dube thinks the numbers of recipients may be up, which would mean they would need the donations to cover. However, those may be down given the uncertain times.

“It’s really a critical year in that things are different, but the level of support we hope will remain the same,” she said.

Stay tuned for updates on how you can donate and help The Lions Christmas Express support those less fortunate in our communities.

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