There will be a new organizer for Secret Santa this year.
Tracy Cross Gauthier has agreed to take over the role from Michelle Schaub, who has organized the annual Christmas collection of gifts and financial donations to help less-fortunate families in Hay River and on the Hay River Reserve for the past five years.
“I volunteer quite a bit,” said Cross Gauthier. “And I’ve been kind of on the backburner with that kind of stuff, especially since Covid hit, and this is an opportunity to volunteer. It’s something that I think I can do because there’s so many people that want to help already, and it’s not by any means an individual effort.”
She noted that she now has more time on her hands, and Secret Santa is a short-term volunteer involvement each year.
“I will be starting preparations now and it will be over by Christmas,” she said. “And then you work towards next year and so on. But it’s not a continuous weekly or monthly thing that you have to deal with. So I think it’s something that I can handle with my workload.”
Cross Gauthier also pointed to the importance of Secret Santa.
“I think in 2020 the need is going to be greater than it has been in the past,” she said. “I just think that there’s a lot of people that are out of work or like myself have lesser hours than they normally would have, and I just think that the need is going to be there, possibly more than it has been in the past. I’d like to make sure that need is met.”
In the past, about 100 families have been helped each year at Christmas by Secret Santa, which has been operating in Hay River since the 1990s.
Schaub is pleased to have found a replacement in Cross Gauthier.
“She has agreed to take on the project, and I couldn’t be happier,” said Schaub. “I think she’ll be a perfect person for this position. She enjoys volunteering. She’s been a part of this community for a lot of years. So I think it’s a right fit, for sure.”
The outgoing organizer noted she will help Cross Gauthier transition into the role.
“I’ll probably volunteer for wrapping and I’ll always be around if she has any questions,” Schaub said. “I’m going to let her go her way with this and how she wants to run it.”
Cross Gauthier, who works at the Hay River airport as the station co-ordinator for Canadian North, is looking at Secret Santa as a long-term commitment.
“I certainly don’t intend to do it for just one year,” she said. “I will do it for as long as I can, as long as I’m successful, and of course as long as the need is there. But there’s always a need for people to step up and help. That way there’s some continuity there and, if for some reason I can’t do it, then it can be passed on quite smoothly to somebody else.”