New format of gift program focuses on giving more choice to families in need, said Candice Little, Finance and Food Centre Manager with The Link Food Centre. (Blair McBride photo)

Link offers new, inclusive Christmas gift program

The Link Food Centre in Burns Lake is changing its Christmas outreach programs to better serve the community.

In the past the Christmas food hamper and gift programs were combined and clients would access both at the food bank. Families in need could apply for the gifts that were donated and Link staff would choose which ones to give, wrap them and put them in the hampers.

But staff noticed some problems with that system.

“I don’t know your kids. Maybe little Johnny would prefer to have a Barbie. Maybe the child has developmental delays and you’d rather get a puzzle for your child. It just felt really disrespectful. We can’t be the people to make that decision,” as Candice Little, Finance and Food Centre Manager with the Link told Lakes District News.

This year, people can buy any unwrapped toy, book, or arts and crafts item they want and give it to the Secret Santa’s Workshop program.

“All of the gifts that we have will be on the shelf in the mall that will be all private. Only people who applied can come in. Once they get in they shop in private, wrap the gifts in private and then leave. Choose something that you know your child will like. As soon as we thought of that idea [we realized] it’s way more inclusive and respectful,” Little said.

Moving the gift program to the mall will also clear up space problems at the main Link site on Centre St., which was becoming too crowded during the Christmas season.

The other big change to the Link’s outreach is how it manages the food side of things. While the organization always welcomes food donations and items from food drives, this year The Link is asking for cash donations as well so it can broaden the range of items it gives to clients.

“If we’ve got a food drive and we get a ton of canned vegetables the money allows us to buy other things,” Little said.

Cash also helps The Link to better focus on buying its special Christmas foods like turkeys, cranberry sauce, pickles, hot chocolate, dinner buns and cake mixes.

The Link spends at least twice as much money on food in December than it does for any other month of the year and this year it plans to spend $8,000-$10,000. Most of that will go towards food and the rest towards gifts.

LDFC Printing and Stationary will have a 15 per cent discount on all gift donation purchases. Red Apple will donate 10 per cent of the proceeds from toy sales on Dec. 6 to The Link. IDA Rx Drug Mart and Save-On-Foods are also participating in the program.

Toys purchased at those shops or anywhere else can be dropped off at the four locations or at Western Financial in the Lakeview Mall.

Families in need should apply by Dec. 13 and can pick up and drop off application forms at Western Financial, the Service BC office and The Link Food Centre. The forms are also available online at

Secret Santa’s Workshop will be held in the mall Dec. 16-23 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Blair McBride
Multimedia reporter
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