A Glen Cairn family delivered Christmas miracles to more than 50 families over the holidays.
Two basement rooms in the Larson household were full of toys wrapped in holiday paper and gift bags filled with items to put a smile on a child’s face. The refrigerator and freezer were loaded full of Christmas foods set to be delivered to families throughout Ottawa and the Valley on Dec. 22 and 23.
“The big message is it’s all about helping other people,” said Meggan Larson, mother to 14-month-old Micah and two-year-old Abby.
Larson and her husband Rob first came across the idea to provide hampers last Christmas after seeing posts on Kijiji – a website where people can list items to sell or things they need. People were offering holiday dinners or gifts to those who were unable to afford such items. The Larsons jumped on board and provided two dinners and gifts for four families in 2011.
This year, they have Christmas dinner baskets for 40 families, gifts for 50 families and 10 of those will receive extra food items to help them into the new year.
“I wasn’t expecting it to get too big,” said Larson. “By October, it just really started blowing up.”
The family teamed up with Ottawa Innercity Ministries, an organization that deals with homelessness, poverty, advocacy, social and biblical justice, panhandling, self-esteem, street youth, addictions, and mental health.
The Larsons gave the organization 20 gift bags for adults and 18 for youths.
“They were totally blown away,” said Larson. “They said this was the first time anyone wanted to help the youth specifically. They were really excited.”
They posted their other offerings on Kijiji and the emails started flooding in.
Among those who would receive gifts and food include a family of 11 who just immigrated to Canada, and a single mother who only asked for clothes and food for her children.
Other families were referred and didn’t know they’d receive hampers.
The Larsons began collecting food, toys and funds in August to provide hampers and gifts to needy families after receiving help themselves.
Meggan Larson had been diagnosed with cancer earlier this year. Now finished her treatments, Larson wanted to give back in a bigger way.
“I don’t think it would have gotten this big if I hadn’t gone through cancer this year,” said Larson, adding people got to know her when a group of Kanata mothers helped raise funds and items for her family when she couldn’t work.
The family chose to distribute the gifts and food items themselves because there are too many restrictions when going through an organization, said Larson.
Every tag says “Love Jesus” because their faith plays a big role in the family’s life.
“I just have such a solid relationship with Him,” said Larson. “I wanted Him to get the credit … I just wanted people to know how much He loves them.”
She added people of all faiths have helped organize and distribute the hampers.
“We’re helping all sorts of faiths,” she said. “It’s for whoever’s in need.”
Around 20 people are helping deliver the hampers to families throughout Ottawa, including to people in Kars, Orléans and Arnprior.
“It’s such a community effort,” said Larson. “It’s nice to see everyone come together.”
She added it’s easy to get in the giving spirit during the holidays but it’s something that needs to happen all year-round.
“We’re just helping as many people as we can,” said Larson. “We wanted to be a message of hope.”