The History of the Christmas Exchange
In 1914, the local community came together to offer support at Christmas time to the families of those called to war. The following year the Caring and Sharing Exchange was established under the name Christmas Exchange. From 1915, through the great depression of the 1930s, the Second World War, and up to present day, the Caring and Sharing Exchange has been bringing together those in need with those who wished to help.
In the Beginning
In 1915, The Ottawa Welfare Bureau (OWB) created in 1914 set up a Confidential Index, later called the Social Services Exchange, to coordinate relief to families affected by the First World War. This Index included a master list for Christmas aid, described by the OWB as "a Christmas Exchange for the use of all charitable organizations and individuals in the city". The purpose of the master list was to help coordinate the distribution of food and gifts by faith and other community groups, by cross-checking the names of those in need so that assistance could be distributed evenly and so no family was left without assistance. The list was used extensively throughout the First World War, and its use was therefore continued following the war.
In 1929, Montreal, Toronto, and New York stock markets suffered the worst economic crash in history, triggering the Great Depression of the 1930s. In 1930, the Caring and Sharing Exchange received its first unsolicited gift of $5, which marked the start of a Christmas assistance fund that only grew from that point on. In 1931, the organization faced its busiest year to date, coordinating duplicate checks to assist with the distribution of assistance to countless individuals and families in need. In 1934, the Caring and Sharing Exchange, together with Social Services Exchange, was transferred to the new Ottawa Council of Social Agencies.
When the Caring and Sharing Exchange Began Giving Gift Certificates
In 1936, in the depths of the Depression, the demand for assistance was so great that, despite combined efforts by individuals, service clubs, churches, and women’s institutes, 289 families were left without help. This, along with their growing Christmas Assistance fund, spurred the Caring and Sharing Exchange into a new role as an assistance-providing charity. In 1942, donations reached $1,061, so in 1943, the Caring and Sharing Exchange gave out its first gift certificates to 634 families. Gift certificates were provided instead of hampers of food due to the fact that wartime rationing had called a halt to food gift baskets.
In 1957, the economy entered a serious recession. The Social Services Exchange closed but the work of the Caring and Sharing Exchange carried on. In 1963, even more ‘working poor’ families began asking for direct assistance from the Caring and Sharing Exchange. As a result of the increasing demand for the Caring and Sharing Exchange's services, a temporary staff of two was hired in 1969 for the campaign period of October to January. In 1973, the Social Planning Council proposed setting up an independent, incorporated agency, with a volunteer board representing consumers, referring agencies, donors, faith communities, and service clubs. In 1974, the incorporation was complete.
CFMO Radiothon Brought Home the Bacon
In 1976, CFMO Radio and The Ottawa Citizen agreed to co-sponsor a broadcast on the first Sunday of December each year as a means of raising funds for the Caring and Sharing Exchange. It was very successful and brought in hundreds of new supporters and thousands of dollars. The West Lions Club also helped by raising the necessary funds for packing and distributing hampers for the Caring and Sharing Exchange throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s. In 1980, St. Vincent de Paul acted as custodian of the Caring and Sharing Exchange’s files and records. The referrals continued to be manually processed.
The Era of Reduced Social Benefits
In 1988, a new record number of 7,054 families were helped thanks to the $230,000 raised by the Caring and Sharing Exchange. In 1989, consideration was given to creating a computer program that would assist in sorting the names of referred clients. In 1990, a severe recession occurred. In 1991, CFMO moved to Smith Falls and were no longer able to continue the broadcasts. In 1994, The Board of the Caring and Sharing Exchange decided that, in order to raise the required funds, the Caring and Sharing Exchange office needed to operate year-round with a permanent staff of two plus volunteers.
Honorary Campaign Chairs
In 1996, The Exchange went online. In 1997, Rod Bryden, Owner of the Ottawa Senators, served as first Honorary Campaign Chair until 1998. In 1999, Jean Piggott, former MP took on this role until 2000, after which Jim Watson, former Mayor of Ottawa assumed this position until 2002. In 2003, Wayne Rostad, host of CBC’s “On the Road Again”, was Honourary Campaign Chair until 2005. In 2006 the Campaign Co-Chairs were Ottawa Renegade player Pat Woodcock and his wife Melanie Reid-Woodcock, followed by /A\ TV News Anchor Sandra Blaikie in 2007. For both the 2008–2009 season the Campaign Chair was Adrian Harewood, Host, ‘All In A Day’, CBC Radio One.
In 1999, CFRA Radio, The Ottawa Citizen, and the Westin Hotel, which had jointly sponsored the Christmas Cheer Broadcast and Breakfast for several years, decided to give all proceeds to the Caring and Sharing Exchange. In 2002, the cost of living rose while incomes did not and as a result, former donors became clients. In 2003, the Caring and Sharing Exchange provided assistance to close to 8,000 households. Since 1999, the Caring and Sharing Exchange estimates that it has saved participating community groups more than half a million dollars in food assistance as a result of the duplication check. In 2005, the organization marked its 90th anniversary! As of the 90th anniversary, volunteers of the Caring and Sharing Exchange had collectively invested around 150,000 hours of their time and skills over the past nine decades!
In 2006, a partnership was formed with the Salvation Army Toy Centre whereby the Caring and Sharing Exchange provided coordination services for the Toy Centre (Toy Mountain) program. This allowed the Toy Centre registration process to expand from one point of in-take to 114 without a cost increase, making the process easier for clients, as well as Toy Centre staff. The total cost of savings realized by the elimination of duplicates for both food and toys grew to over $700,000 per year.
In 2007, CFRA Radio and the Westin Hotel, organizers of the Christmas Cheer Broadcast and Breakfast, started proceedings to form the Christmas Cheer Foundation. The Ottawa Food Bank was added as a beneficiary of the Broadcast and Breakfast and by 2009, the Christmas Cheer Foundation was fully incorporated, adding The Ottawa Senators Foundation to the group of recipient charities. As a result, the Caring and Sharing Exchange received less than 25% of the proceeds from the events.
To compensate for the lost income, the Caring and Sharing Exchange partnered with the Huntington Society to put on the first Caring and Sharing Charity Auction in 2008.
In 2010, the Caring and Sharing Exchange decided to begin providing coordination services for school supplies, starting with a partnership with Child and Youth Friendly Ottawa (CAYFO). Together, they worked to maximize the distribution of donations to CAYFO’s Tools 4 School Program.
As of January 2011, the Caring and Sharing Exchange further expanded on school supply coordination, creating a new program under which supplies would be provided to underprivileged children through direct school supply assistance. Since the new program was not Christmas-oriented, the Caring and Sharing Exchange found it increasingly difficult to solicit donations under their former name, Christmas Exchange. The Board of Directors therefore makes the decision to institute an umbrella name under which the three programs can operate successfully.
As of June 2011, the Christmas Exchange officially changed their name to the Caring and Sharing Exchange, under which operates their School Supplies Assistance Program, their Coordination Service, and their Christmas Assistance Program.
1915 to 1925
How Christmas Exchange got its name
|1915||The Ottawa Welfare Bureau (OWB) created in 1914 set up a Confidential Index, later called the Social Services Exchange, to coordinate relief to families affected by the First World War. In 1915 this included a master list for Christmas aid, described by the OWB as “a Christmas Exchange for the use of all charitable organizations and individuals in the city.” The purpose of the Christmas Exchange was to coordinate distribution of food and gifts by churches and other community groups, through crosschecking names on their respective lists and notifying them of duplications.|
|1916||In 1916, 62 letters were sent to churches and societies asking them for a list of families they propose to help. In response 552 families names were received, of which 138 prove to be duplicates. This proved the value of the duplicate check and of notifying community groups about Christmas Exchange services.|
|1917||As a “temporary wartime measure” the federal government introduces income tax.|
The First World War ended on November 11, 1918. Of the 620,000 Canadians who had served in the war, 60,000 were killed and 172,000 were injured.
The Social Services Exchange and Christmas Exchange continued, in spite of hopes that the Christmas Exchange might not be needed after the war.
|1925||The Ottawa Welfare Bureau held its first fundraising drive and made funds available to Christmas Exchange. This practice did not continue.|
1926 to 1935
Christmas Exchange carries on
|1926||The federal government instituted old age pension.|
|1929||Montreal, Toronto, and New York stock markets suffer the worst economic crash in history triggering the Great Depression of the 1930s.|
|1930||Christmas Exchange received the first unsolicited gift of $5, which activates a Christmas Exchange fund that snowballed from then on.|
The Ottawa Welfare Bureau switched from giving financial assistance to doing casework. The City of Ottawa began providing social assistance benefits, following creation of the Public Welfare Board. Christmas Exchange had its busiest year to date.
1931 was a bad year for Ottawa: City Hall burned down, the City water mains blew up, taxes went up to a record high along with the summer temperatures, and the Ottawa Senators hockey team died.
|1934||The Christmas Exchange together with Social Services Exchange was transferred to the new Ottawa Council of Social Agencies.|
1936 to 1945
When the Christmas Exchange began giving gift certificates
|1936||In the depths of the Depression, despite combined efforts by individuals, service clubs, churches, and women’s institutes, 289 families are left without help, so great was the demand.|
|1937||Reluctant to take on the role of direct provider, the Exchange recorded the assertion that its purpose is “to prevent overlapping and duplication in the giving of Christmas dinners.” Nonetheless, unsolicited funds continued to come in.|
|1939||Canada’s entry into the Second World War put people back to work and improved the economy. At the same time, seniors’ pensions were devalued because of inflation.|
|1941||Unemployment Insurance was introduced.|
|1942||Donations of $1,061 to Christmas Exchange were recorded, and of the 526 referrals submitted, 106 were duplicates.|
|1943||For the first time the Exchange gave out gift certificates to 634 families because it now has the funding from continued unsolicited funds to do so, and because wartime rationing called a halt to food gift baskets.|
|1944||The Family Allowance Act was introduced.|
|1945||The Second World War ended on April 16, 1945, with 42,000 Canadian service people dead and 54,000 wounded.|
|1946 to 1955|
|1951||The Old Age Security Act was passed with pensions for all men and women 70 years of age and over. The mid-century census recorded Canada’s population as 14 million.|
|1954||The Ottawa Welfare Bureau became the Ottawa Family Services Centre, and the Social Services Exchange together with the Christmas Exchange became part of the Ottawa Welfare Council. Christmas Exchange recorded 1,729 referrals received of which 203 were duplicates.|
1956 to 1965
|1957||After 12 years of prosperity, the economy entered a serious recession. The Social Services Exchange closed but the work of the Christmas Exchange carried on through the Christmas Exchange Committee, which became a Standing Committee of the Ottawa Welfare Council. Christmas Exchange helped 1,479 families with Christmas Dinner.|
|1958||The unemployment rate, which had been between 3% and 4% for most of the 1950s, climbed to more than 7%. Of the 2,017 referrals, 360 were duplicates.|
|1959||A report notes that 75% of $4,905 in donations came in the last 10 days before Christmas.|
|1961||The Exchange Committee opened a toy centre, helped by the Kinsmen who did repairs on used toys. 385 duplicates were found, 2,136 families helped and 2,750 children received toys for Christmas from the toy centre.|
|1963||The Citizens’ Committee on Children and the Ottawa Welfare Council took up sponsorship of the toy centre. Up to this point referrals were received from social agencies, but more “working poor” families began asking directly for help, and became a focus of the Exchange. 582 duplicates found, 2,729 families helped and 3,353 children received toys.|
|By the mid-1960s, the toy centre became unmanageable, a victim of its own success, so it was discontinued. The Salvation Army opened a toy centre in 1973, which continues until today.|
1966 to 1975
The Christmas Exchange goes it alone
|1969||The Ottawa Welfare Council, now called Social Planning Council, found it hard to continue the annual Christmas Exchange coordination. The workload had become too much for the roughly 80 volunteers, so a temporary staff of two was hired for the campaign period, October to January. The number of “public welfare” referrals had climbed to 83%, representing a change in focus from the “working poor.”|
|1971||A campaign organized and run by media raised more money than ever before, but the media could not undertake to run a campaign every year.|
The Social Planning Council proposed setting up an independent, incorporated agency, with a volunteer board representing consumers, referring agencies, donors, churches, and service clubs.
Since a Christmas Bonus was issued to people receiving social assistance the Christmas Exchange concentrated on helping the working poor and low-income seniors.
|1974||Incorporation is complete. Several Ottawa businesses loaned office furniture, and two temporary staff began work in October. The five largest banks agreed to accept donations.|
|1975||The Exchange, processed 2,831 referrals from 105 agencies, and found 535 duplicates, received donations of $27,730 and distributed 250 hampers.|
1976 to 1985
CFMO Radiothon brings home the bacon
|1976||CFMO Radio and The Ottawa Citizen agreed to co-sponsor a broadcast on the first Sunday of December each year. It is very successful and brought in hundreds of new supporters and thousands of dollars.|
The deepest and longest recession of the Canadian economy since the Second World War occurred in 1981–1982 causing a rise in unemployment. Through the 1980s all banks and trust companies accepted donations for Christmas Exchange.
West Lions Club raised the necessary funds to pack and distribute hampers for Christmas Exchange throughout the 1980s into the 1990s.
The pattern of opening a temporary office each October and closing at the end of January began, with two staff hired during that period to run the office along with an army of volunteers. St. Vincent de Paul acted as custodian of the Exchange’s files and records. The referrals continued to be manually process.
The Exchange helped 3,116 families, 665 duplicates were found, and churches and service clubs distributed 1,330 hampers. Donations totaling $91,313 were recorded.
Although people on social assistance continue to receive a Christmas bonus, the amount had been decreasing over the years becoming lower than what Christmas Exchange provided to the working poor. The Board of Directors decided to “top-up” social assistance bonuses, funds permitting.
|1985||The number of families helped increased by 62% over the previous year.|
1986 to 1995
The era of reduced social benefits
|1988||A new record number of 7,054 families were helped thanks to the $230,000 raised.|
A severe recession occurred in 1990–91, unemployment rose, it took longer to find a new job, and some workers from the manufacturing sector who lost jobs were unable find another.
The Exchange began using computers and database software to process applications.
|1991||CFMO moved to Smith Falls but continued to do the Christmas Exchange Broadcast. Because the radio signal from Smith Falls was faint in Ottawa, the broadcast stops after one year. Banks and trust companies would no longer receive donations on behalf of Christmas Exchange.|
|1994||People receiving social assistance stopped getting the Christmas bonus. The Board of Christmas Exchange decided that the office needed to operate year-round with a permanent staff of two, and many volunteers, in order to raise the funds required|
|1996 to 2005|
|1996||The Exchange goes on-line.|
|1997||Rod Bryden, well known Ottawa Business man and owner of the Ottawa Senators Hockey Team, agreed to serve as the first Honorary Campaign Chair and continued to serve until 1998.|
Jean Pigott. former MP and Chair of the National Capital Commission agreed to serve as Honorary Campaign Chair and served until 2000.
CFRA Radio, The Ottawa Citizen and the Westin Hotel, jointly sponsored the Christmas Cheer Broadcast and Christmas Cheer Breakfast.
275 Volunteers collectively invest 3,300 hours in the work of the Exchange
|2000||The dot.com bubble raised expectations of unlimited economic growth. The Exchange helped 23,313 people.|
|2001||Jim Watson, former Mayor of Ottawa, and Commissioner of Tourism, agreed to chair the 2001 campaign and served until 2002. The Exchange helped a record 25,267 people. The dot.com bubble burst, with thousands of jobs lost in Ottawa.|
|2002||The cost of living rose while incomes did not. Former donors became clients as a result of continued job losses in the high tech sector. Christmas Exchange provided assistance to more than 7,800 households.|
The Exchange helped close to 8,000 households. Wayne Rostad, philanthropist and host of CBC’s “On the Road Again,” took on the role of Honorary Chair.
Since 1999, the Exchange estimates that it has saved participating community groups more than half a million dollars as a result of the duplication check.
|2004||With Wayne Rostad chairing the campaign for a second year, the Exchange assists more than 7,200 households after receiving referrals from close to 300 agents.|
The Christmas Exchange shares a 90th anniversary with the Ottawa Family Services Centre. Exchange and the 3rd year of Wayne’s chairing the campaign bring celebration as well as a hard look at how to do even better.
The Exchange conservatively estimates that volunteers over the Exchange’s nine decades have collectively invested at least 150,000 hours of their time and skills – that’s roughly 90 years!