Poverty never takes a holiday.

In December, festive gatherings and gift giving is the norm for many people. The hype and advertising for the holiday season depict a joyous time of perfect presents, delicious meals and extravagant social visits.

However, for many individuals and families in our community, the holiday season is very stressful. People in poverty struggle all year to make ends meet. The decision to either buy food or pay the rent becomes even more challenging with the additional pressure of the holidays. A festive turkey dinner and a beautiful tree with plenty of presents may be a far-fetched dream for some families. The holiday traditions that supposedly contribute to the perfect family Christmas are unrealistic for people in poverty.

Sometimes the stress of not having enough money during the holiday season can lead to or accelerate domestic violence. Suicide rates increase. More people experience depression. Individuals who struggle with addictions can be tempted to slip back into old habits.

Loneliness is also more prevalent for people during holiday times, especially for seniors in poverty. In 2012, Operation Friendship Seniors Society referred 250 seniors to the Christmas Bureau for help with a hamper or gift card for a festive meal.  

The Alberta Capital Region is known for being generous.  Residents in our community give willingly to people in need during the holiday season. However, poverty hurts 365 days of the year – it never takes a holiday. 

Parents and children living in poverty aren’t concerned about receiving gifts or the latest, most popular toy for Christmas. They worry about when their next meal is and how to stay warm without proper clothing or heat.  These are stressors no one should have to bear, especially if you’re a child. 

Victims of domestic violence are concerned about their safety every day.  This time of year, these worries and danger to their safety escalate.  And individuals who struggle with addictions or depression also deal with their challenges year-round.

United Way brings the community together to create pathways out of poverty each and every day of the year.   The greater our collective action, the greater the impact we make. Please show your support to those less fortunate – not just during the holidays, but all the days.  Here’s how you can get involved and make a difference. 

• Sign the Statement of Support: This is available in hard copy or online through our website at myunitedway.ca

• Encourage Others: Spread the facts about poverty and share your commitment with friends, family and co-workers.

• Make a Donation: Donate to United Way and watch for the lasting results that your gift makes.