By Second Lieutenant Natasha Tersigni, 38 Canadian Brigade Group Public Affairs
Winnipeg, Manitoba — Christmas morning came early to hundreds of Winnipeg families on December 15, 2018 thanks to the generous donations of community members, countless volunteers with Winnipeg’s Christmas Cheer Board, and a helping hand from members of 38 Canadian Brigade Group (38 CBG).
Soldiers of the Fort Garry Horse (FGH) and 38 Combat Engineer Regiment (38 CER), along with members and volunteers from the 1226 Fort Garry Horse Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps, delivered hampers on behalf of the charity.
Each year, a thousand school children pack hampers, three hundred warehouse volunteers work long hours, hundreds of knitters knit year-round, about 2,500 drivers volunteer, countless individuals, businesses and organizations donate food, toys and cash – all to provide for thousands of less fortunate in their city.
Unique training and community support opportunity
The Army Reservists’ contribution to this annual holiday initiative is named Exercise PARCEL PUSH, a warmly-welcomed way for soldiers to connect with the local community where they train.
The FGH is an Armoured Reconnaissance unit whose soldiers are trained to operate vehicles, such as the G Wagons that were used for the deliveries. Over the course of the day, the soldiers, Army cadets and volunteers were able to deliver close to 250 Christmas hampers to residents living in Winnipeg’s North End, close to where the unit is based.
“This is a great opportunity for us to engage with the local community and to give back. As well, the soldiers are able to receive training from this initiative, so it really is a win-win for everyone,” said FGH Commanding Officer Lieutenant-Colonel Dave Koltun, who added that this is the 34th year the unit has organized and run the exercise.
Ex PARCEL PUSH began in 1984 when the Winnipeg Christmas Cheer Board reached out to then-FGH Commanding Officer Lieutenant-Colonel Bordon Hasiuk for volunteers.
LCol Hasiuk decided that his soldiers could not only volunteer with the organization, but this initiative would be valuable as an additional training opportunity.
“They are getting experience with urban navigation, commanding their vehicles, directing their crews – and drivers are getting hours behind the wheel in winter conditions. Everybody is getting something out of this exercise, which is really great,” added LCol Koltun.
Support from Winnipeg’s Mayor
Having been a staple in the community for over three decades, Ex PARCEL PUSH has become a Christmas tradition for Winnipeggers and has garnered the support of many community members. Last year, Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman and Member of the Legislative Assembly for Kildonan Nic Curry joined the soldiers for deliveries.
“I enjoyed volunteering with Fort Garry Horse and the Christmas Cheer Board and being able to help fellow Winnipeggers this holiday season. It really is an honour to be joining the exercise and seeing the work the soldiers do on an annual basis,” said Mayor Bowman.
“The best part of this time of year is seeing the community rally to provide a little bit of extra care and love for our neighbours.”