Many years ago, in the Christmas of 1996, there was a family from Brampton whose house had burned down just days before Christmas. The Salvation Army announced a call-to-action asking the local community to donate clothing, house wares and food to help the grief-stricken family.
Sisters and students at the time, April and Sarah Rutka responded to this call-to-action in a way that started a legacy.
They knew the family celebrated Christmas, so they also knew that having a fully decorated Christmas tree would be a nice gift to wake up to on Christmas morning. With that idea and their warm hearts Sarah and April set out to buy an artificial tree and stand, and asked family and friends to donate the trimmings. After their donation and the holidays, April and Sarah heard that the family was overjoyed with their gift of the tree. It made the family celebrate a special holiday making them feel loved and normal again.
Every following year, April and Sarah continued the tradition they had started. They donated Christmas trees to families in need during the holidays.
Since then, April and Sarah's goodwill has spread beyond their local community to the rest of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and donations having been pouring in. Over the years, the sisters pulled together a team of over 7,500 dedicated volunteers who were also passionate about making Christmas cheerful for low income families.
Since 1996, the Christmas packages have evolved from a fully decorated artificial Christmas tree to the full Christmas experience including winter coats, hats & mitts, a gift card for Christmas dinner, a gift (or two) for each child in a family, household items for the parent to assist with poverty relief, and of course the Christmas tree.
20 years later, today Holiday Helpers is a registered charity with a dedicated steering committee that meets year round to fundraise and manage the charity.