Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Text Size




"You saved our Christmas!" Those are words that the Christmas Exchange Program hears over and over again from families and individuals who otherwise wouldn’t have a Christmas. “It is nice to know that someone cares.”

The Christmas Exchange Program has a long history as the first direct-assistance program provided by the Caring and Sharing Exchange.

Born in 1915 under the Ottawa Welfare Bureau, the Christmas Exchange assistance program provides those in need with food hampers or much-needed redeemable gift certificates during the holiday season. These gift certificates can be used at any Ottawa Giant Tiger location and are intended to provide recipients with a sense of hope and dignity during an otherwise difficult time of year.

If you wish to donate new toys through Toy Mountain, you make bring them to one of these locations in Ottawa.




Read Jiayi's story, below.

And more Thank You notes

Big thanks to GAPC for donating this professional video.


Christmas Exchange Program
2013 2012 2011
Total number of people who asked for assistance 19,627 23,480 27,579
Total number of people helped directly through the Christmas Assistance Program
16,725 10,502 13,832
Number of Families (Households) 5,935 4,166 5,463
Number of Seniors 1,399 1,256 1,331
Total number of Children (under 18 years of age1)
7,383 4,338 5,994
Number of duplicates found for food assistance
1,418 1,993 2,924
Community savings from processing duplicates2 $141,800 $221,900 $292,400
Toy Mountain
Number of Children referred to the Toy Centre 13,500 14,507 12,849
Number of duplicate children found for toy assistance 1,938 2,618 3,046
Community savings from processing duplicates3 $290,700 $392,700 $456,900
Total Community savings processing duplicates for food and toys $432,500 $614,600 $749,300

1. This does not include parents under 18 years of age.
2. Based on the average gift to families of $100 from a 2009 survey of all helping agencies.
3. Based on the average gift of $150 per child.

A First Christmas In Canada

Over 10,700 families asked the Christmas Exchange Program for assistance in 2011. The gifts you made helped close to 5,500 families celebrate the holidays!

Sadly, this left 5,300 families without assistance. There simply were not enough donations to help everyone. Those who were fortunate enough to receive a hamper or redeemable gift-voucher were very thankful.

Jiayi* was one of the people helped. She is a registered patent lawyer with a Masters in Philosophy and Law as well as an Engineering degree. Jiayi and her husband were working in Beijing when they decided to move to Canada in June 2011, with their baby. “We came to Canada as we wanted to provide our little boy with a positive environment, cleaner air, better food… and happiness!” Jiayi said. She felt that people in China were getting more competitive and rude, what with the one-child policy and increasing economic inequality.

Moving to Canada meant starting from scratch. They still haven’t found jobs after six months. It’s hard to find work as their education and work experience is not valid in Canada. Their son will soon be 3 years old and they are expecting a second child. With the holiday season upon them and a very limited income, Jiayi found herself asking for assistance.

“I was not ashamed to register to the Christmas Exchange program. It was my first time receiving assistance.” Jiayi explained. “I was always the one doing the giving, in China! People are lucky to have such charities to help them in a time of need. I want the staff and volunteers to know that their work means so much!”

Jiayi and her family received a redeemable gift voucher to Giant Tiger which allowed them to buy a winter sled for their son.

“We were worried that our little boy would not get enough outdoor physical activity because of the cold. But he loves sledding now! One time, he played so hard that he fell asleep on the way back. When he woke up at home, he started crying because he wanted to go back!”

A simple sled has made the cold, snowy season full of fun for their son. It also helped Jiayi’s family transition into a new life in Canada. In the near future, she wants to go back to school and do meaningful research work, to end child trafficking.

* the name has been changed to protect privacy


“Sometimes he played so
much that he fell asleep in
the sled on the way back.”


Some more words of gratitude from those you have helped.

The message below from Olivia* is an example of how we often take little things for granted, like chocolate:
“I received a hamper from the Christmas Exchange Program this past holiday. I had a very good time, my chicken was good. Thank you so, so much for the chocolates!! It was very thoughtful of you."

Whenever possible, we provide food hampers to those who are unable to shop for themselves:
“I’m very grateful for the food basket. I’m on disability pension and I am blind. I don’t…have much money and I lost my Mom this year, so it’s a very hard time. Thank you for the instructions to prepare the turkey and gravy. I have someone to help me and I’m going to have family over. Thanks to the volunteers who delivered the hampers.”
– Gary*

For many, the redeemable gift-voucher was the helping hand that they needed:
“Thank you very much for the Giant Tiger gift certificate, we bought much needed food with it. My husband and I were very grateful as it came at the right time, we are seniors with a small pension so the need was there…” – Angèle*

We also often hear from past recipients as they make a donation, like Hank*:
“As a child, my family was the recipient of – in those days – a wooden apple basket filled with food items. It brought so much joy into an otherwise bleak time. Think of this not as a gift, but as an expression of gratitude.”

As you can see the people you helped were touched by the gift that you made. Just knowing that there are people like you who care makes a big difference in their lives.