Holiday Cheer Mission spreads a little extra cheer

Some of the Holiday Cheer Mission 'elves' distributing Tim Hortons gift cards on Dec. 14, 2014 were, from left, Haley Leger, 14, Kaitlyn Gilligan, 14, Fallin Morin-Michaud, 12, Sebastian Dupuis, 11, and Devin Morin-Michaud, 10. Click to enlarge.  (Cornwall Newswatch/Bill Kingston)
Some of the Holiday Cheer Mission ‘elves’ distributing Tim Hortons gift cards on Dec. 14, 2014 were, from left, Haley Leger, 14, Kaitlyn Gilligan, 14, Fallin Morin-Michaud, 12, Sebastian Dupuis, 11, and Devin Morin-Michaud, 10. (Cornwall Newswatch/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – The city’s Holiday Cheer Mission has taken its goal of making people feel better during the holiday season to a new level.

The group started in 2013 as seven local woman who wanted to make a difference in the community.

Not only is the group giving out 30 cheer baskets this month to people selected through a Facebook nomination process, but some ‘elves’ were out on Cornwall streets Sunday giving out $5 Tim Hortons cards.

The 13 men, 13 women and four couples nominated for the cheer baskets were picked because they may not been looking forward to the holidays, either due to a lack of family, the death of a loved one, family away on military service or they are dealing with anxiety or mental illness.

“We well exceeded our fundraising,” organizer Danielle MacNeil told Cornwall Newswatch. “By the time we bought stuff for the baskets and they were filled, we had a lot of left over money. So we wanted another way we could kind of give back.”

She says the group had agreed from the beginning to create only 30 baskets and when everything was filled, it was easier to create a new initiative to spread some cheer.

MacNeil says a fellow organizer suggested giving out gift cards to random strangers. “At first we were thinking like 10 or 20 but we had so much left over and we went with $5 cards.” The group was giving out 250 cards Sunday.

She says other people who didn’t quite fit the nomination process for the cheer baskets were also given a little something to help during the holidays.

MacNeil wants to send a positive message about Cornwall. “If you want to do something nice, go do it. Everybody is capable of that.”

“We are actually an amazing community. We are a very giving community. We raised $5,000 in three months just by doing online auctions to support this cause.”

The amount raised this year is more than double the amount in 2013 ($2,000).

When the Holiday Cheer Mission was started in 2013 and 20 baskets were distributed, MacNeil never expected the outreach project to be as successful as it’s been.

She’s already looking forward to 2015. “Next year I hope we can make it even bigger.”

The cheer baskets will be distributed on Dec. 23 by some of those same ‘elves’ that were handing out gift cards Sunday.

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