The holidays will look different for people who typically receive a hamper from the Christmas Cheer Board.

The group began planning for this year's hampers in June when cases were much lower in Winnipeg. They originally planned to have hampers, but with rising case numbers, they needed to change their strategy. 

"This is way outside the things one could imagine," Executive Director Kai Madsen, who was set to retire last year, says. "We had to take care of the safety of not only the people we look after at Christmastime but also the volunteers that make all of this happen."

They had to change the way the group operated this year, including majorly scaling back on in-person community involvement.

The Christmas lover says that his favourite part about Christmas is the community celebrating the season together and is missing the crowds of volunteers.

"I am not trying to say I am old-fashioned, but it feels good when you are doing it and everybody else is part of the team," he says. "Our whole concept at the Cheer Board is to involve the community in as many ways as we possibly can."

Each year 2,000 to 3,000 people would volunteer with the Cheer Board. This year, they will only have 100 volunteers.

christmas cheer boardThe Christmas Cheer Board relies on volunteers. (Facebook)

Typically school children would help pack the hampers, but this year, there will be no hampers to pack. Instead, the Cheer Board is handing out vouchers.

"We went through various scenarios and in the end, we came up with something that keeps everybody safe and still allows up to help the people that need to help. We are plotting along and we will make it work."

While the loss of hampers is not ideal and much more expensive, Madsen says in this emergency situation it will do.

"We are still able to help the people that need our help but without the traffic flow." 

The group will help 15,000 to 17,000 families this year. Typically 6,000 to 7,000 of those would come through the Cheer Board's doors to pick up their hampers but Madsen says this strategy is "far too risky" this year.

The vouchers will be mailed or delivered. At this point, no one will be picking up their voucher in person.

Madsen says that he prefers hampers and does not like the idea of vouchers because it lacks the same community involvement.

"When you do hampers, we include in that hamper things that are donated, whether it be toys or groceries and so on. So the hamper is a much much better package, if you like, than the food voucher."

Madsen says they miss having volunteers come through the doors. He says the school children who pack hampers "keep them young" with their energy.

"It is a lively situation when you have that many kids in there all doing the same thing and having fun and singing and so on. We miss those things and we are hoping the future looks a little better than it is now."