Kootenay Market employees helped the crew from Kalesnikoff Lumber Co. stretch their dollars to help 20 Castlegar families in need this Christmas. A full turkey dinner with all the trimmings, plus additional groceries for the next week, and toys for the kids are part of the donation organized by the employees of the local mill. (Submitted)

Kalesnikoff employees donate more than $13,000 to local charities

Forty families in Nelson and Castlegar will have a merrier Christmas this year

THRUMS – Forty families in Nelson and Castlegar will have a merrier Christmas this year, with food for a traditional dinner, a hamper of groceries to take them through the next week, and gifts for the kids right off their wish-list, thanks to the generosity of Kalesnikoff Lumber Company employees.

“Last year, we made a commitment to help 28 families in Nelson through the Salvation Army,” explained Kalesnikoff CFO Krystle Seed. “The experience was so overwhelming that this year we doubled the commitment, and along with the Nelson families, we’re now doing the same in Castlegar too.”

Donations in Castlegar are being coordinated by the Castlegar and District Community Services Society.

The local forest products company employees pitched in to raise $6,000 to support the efforts. The Kalesnikoff family matched that donation and added another $1,600 that was raised at a company golf tournament, to bring the total to $13,600.

Seed — herself a Kalesnikoff, daughter of mill owner and CEO Ken — said that beyond the dollars donated, the enthusiasm of the employees to volunteer their time was humbling.

“We’re so fortunate to have such community-minded, caring people working with us, and they have taken this effort to heart,” she explained.

DeEtte Mackenzie is one of those employees who helped deliver a trailer-full of gifts for kids to the Salvation Army last year and said that this year was even better.

“Our company is halfway between Nelson and Castlegar, and we’ve got employees from all local communities, so to be able to grow our donation this year is really satisfying,” Mackenzie said. “We had great support from local businesses, too.”

Secret Garden Toys in Nelson not only gave discounts but opened early and helped Kalesnikoff volunteers shop for gifts for 75 kids. Kootenay Market in Castlegar also helped with discounts on food, and did a ton of work to get everything organized, Mackenzie explained.

The RDCK donated family swim passes, and even the SPCA helped to make a child’s wish come true with a pet (with parental approval, of course).

Val Sherriff of the Nelson Salvation Army said that the donation was almost overwhelming.

“For one group to take on responsibility for brightening the Christmas of 20 families is Nelson is so significant,” she said. “This is a tough time of year for people who are struggling, and just knowing that people out there care is a blessing. Providing not only a proper Christmas dinner hamper but also food the rest of the week and specific toys for the kids goes such a long way to helping these families feel supported and cared for.”

In Castlegar, CDSS Executive Director Kristien Johnson echoed those sentiments.

“Every parent wants to be able to give their kids a happy Christmas, and financial hardship can be so emotionally draining, so to know that the pressure for 20 families is relieved, we can work to spread other donations to more families in need,” she explained.

Sherriff attended the Kalesnikoff company Christmas party in Nelson earlier this month, and she brought Dave Sprague, the Salvation Army’s Food Bank Coordinator and Community Liaison. Sprague spoke at the event to convey the thanks of the families receiving the donations.

“The look on peoples faces when they learn that they’ve been ‘adopted’ for Christmas, by total strangers who still care for them, is all it takes to convince anyone that volunteering to do this work is important and rewarding,” he said.

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