The children of Shamattawa, Man., have plenty to smile about again this Christmas, after nearly a ton of Creston apples and an assortment of gifts arrived earlier this month.
“The children were thrilled,” said local organizer Muriel Buhr. “So thrilled that one classroom went trooping over to Shamattawa’s RCMP detachment with a thank you card for Cpl. Maria Russell that they made themselves.”
“They had a youth bazaar scheduled for that evening and the apples were a big hit,” Russell wrote to Buhr. “The next day a teacher took her kids to the detachment with a gift for us. I explained to all the children that it was not the RCMP who gave the apples, but the lovely people in a faraway town! They made a nice drawing book with handwritten thank yous.”
“Imagine that, being thrilled over an apple!” Buhr said.
Not accepting credit for the donations has become something of a tradition for the donations project. Buhr is quick to pass on thanks to all the others involved and orchardist Ken Shukin shrugs off the donations and starts loading up pallets to deliver to others in need.
“Shukin Orchards again donated to that community that doesn’t ask, but needs,” she said. “He also shipped another 1,000 pounds to Lynn Lake, Man. Shukin Orchards hears of need in communities and food banks all over Western Canada and tries every year to meet the need of people from all walks of life.”
Shamattawa is a First Nations community, where food and necessities must be flown in at great expense.
“Imagine now,” Buhr said, “Christmas morning. In a town so far away geographically, we really cannot even picture it in our minds. A fly-in only town that some of the children have never been out of. Where there is no mall or restaurants, no theatre, no bank, no recreation centre, not much employment, no high school, no hospital, no doctor, and not much else but the love of their family, children will be waking up, just like ours.”
Buhr said gifts and donations for the “Christmas by Creston” project, as it has been dubbed by Shamattawa RCMP, have been rolling in since last January.
“Terrie Faulkner, a Kitchener resident, has been a driving force behind the project to ensure children, in the Creston Valley or halfway across the country, have a little something at Christmas time,” she said.
It all started three years ago when a Shamattawa RCMP officer was visiting his father in Creston at Christmas time and spoke of the needs in the isolated community.
“Maybe we started out to just give some of our harvest to those in need,” Buhr said. “Goodness knows we needed to remind ourselves that we should appreciate our orchardists, since they are among the reasons we consider ourselves lucky to live here.
“That year, the project included sending a Christmas gift to each child in Shamattawa. Now, in our third year, we continue to expand. Since January, gifts have been dropped off at the hospital (Buhr’s employer). Little by little, the pile of gifts grew. Local merchants keep us in mind — Mark’s Work Wearhouse, Creston Card and Stationery and others called us for pickup. Ryan, Joanne and Jo Jo at Extra Foods gave us a call that we could get a pallet of gifts for young children at prices we haven’t seen since the last millennium. Gleaners contributed all year long. Gifts came from all over. People from Kootenay Lake arrived with ‘a little something for a child in Shamattawa’. They came in from Yahk, Kitchener, Erickson and Lister. George Loveseth of Oliver, B.C., heard about this endeavor when he was on a Caribbean cruise and sent 62 hand-knitted hats. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Riondel and Creston made beautiful blankets.
“When season-end sales came on, people thought of Shamattawa. Toys, jewelry and makeup arrived. Barbies came in, and so did Lego, Nerf games and books. Echo Kerr donated hand-made dressed teddy bears and Ed and Sylvia Turner went out of their way to find what size clothing was needed, then brought some in. Crestview ladies knitted and crocheted and wrapped Christmas gifts. The Beehive Quilters took us under their wings and included Shamattawa in their caring by making 30 quilts.
“Area B contributed towards purchasing last minute gifts for the children. The children at Redeemer Lutheran Church Kids Korner (a program run by Betty Marzke) gave from their hearts. There are about 15 of them this year, ranging in age from three to 11 years old. Each year they collect and use their offering money to help someone who is their neighbour. This September, they decided to help the Shamattawa project. Along with their gift, they offer a prayer each week for the children in Shamattawa. How inspiring is that?
“Sorting, packing and boxing to ready for shipping was a wonderful joint venture. Thanks to Lana, Terrie, Russell, Dustin, Joy, Don, Signe and Ken Miller and so many others — it was a party.
“Community spirit was lifted when, once again, we were offered the generous support from Arlene, Richard and Matt of Creston Parcel and from Jim O’Connor of Overland West Freight, Greg Ridsdale of Ridsdale Transport and Jim Sinclair of Gardewine North to truck three full skids weighing more than 2,800 pounds full of apples and gifts for the children of that community. Once again, our ground transportation companies became Santa Claus. We cannot fully express just how much their support means to both Creston and Shamattawa. They each took turns transporting our gifts over 2,000 kilometres to the airport in Thompson, Man., to be flown in by Perimeter Aviation. The RCMP detachment in Shamattawa will be Santa’s elves again, working on their own time to help distribute gifts to the children.
“The kids were thrilled getting an apple from a town far away. Can you imagine the joy they will experience getting a Christmas gift?
“The children in Shamattawa will wake up this Christmas morning just like ours will. They will run out to the living room and see if there is a gift just for them, just like ours will. And we will know that just as surely as we know there is a Santa for our children, he will be there for those children.
“Merry Christmas and may the season bless each and every one of you.”