Staffer pays it forward for Christmas

Staffer pays it forward for Christmas by Carmen Rojas (Nov 22, 2007) A pile of presents to open and a big turkey meal with all the trimmings for dinner?year after year, m

23 November 2007

Staffer pays it forward for Christmas

by Carmen Rojas

(Nov 22, 2007)

A pile of presents to open and a big turkey meal with all the trimmings for dinner?year after year, many of us take these for granted as part of our Christmas Day festivities.

But Barb Heagle, Assistant Senior Director in the Faculty of Arts? Office of Interdisciplinary Studies, remembers what it was like each holiday season not knowing if she?d be able to provide either for her two children. Heagle was asked to share her story as the honorary speaker at the Christmas Bureau of Edmonton?s 2007 Campaign Kick Off. Speaking at City Hall on November 19th, she recalled how difficult Christmastime was for her as a young, single mother.

?Holidays were particularly stressful. I wanted to provide more but I couldn?t. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn?t do it!? she explained to the crowd, which included media, city councillors and the honorary campaign chairpersons, Kevin Lowe and the Edmonton Oilers Ladies.

?My kids would see the commercials on TV and they would say ?Mom, I want this toy or I want that game.? I knew that I would not be able to afford the items that they so desperately pleaded for, and if I did go outside of the budget on even the smallest ticket item, I had to think about what we could live without,? she added.

Heagle was determined to change the direction of her life, and once her children were in school she focused on finishing her high school education. ?I wanted to thrive?not just survive,? she said. ?I wanted my kids to have bikes and new clothes. I wanted a better life for all of us.?

Her situation became more difficult, however, when her son was diagnosed with Crohn?s disease at the age of 10. Suddenly, hospital stays, surgeries and costly medication were added to the day-to-day struggles they already faced. ?I so desperately wanted to continue with my education,? she said, ?but I knew that I could not commit to anything long term because of the rollercoaster ride we were on with his health?he had no one to rely on but me and I had no one to rely on at all.?

No one, that is, other than local non-profit organizations like the Christmas Bureau, which provides food hampers to people in need, and Santas Anonymous, which collects and distributes presents to less fortunate children throughout the city.

?Christmas each year as a single mom, I knew I could rely on the comfort [they] would help to provide for my family,? she recalled. ?If it weren?t for these organizations, there would have been many Christmases that we would not have had anything under the tree or even a festive meal at home.?

Heagle was gradually able to improve her life and put those days behind her for good. After years of juggling the demands of work, school and family, she earned her high school diploma and completed a secretarial program. Even then, she was determined to strive for more and continued to further her education at every opportunity. ?Believe me, I was exhausted, frustrated and alone?but I never gave up!? she said.

In 1999, she started a job as an administrative assistant at the U of A and worked her way up to her current position in the Office of Interdisciplinary Studies. She also started volunteering her time with charities as a way to give back to the community and support those who are struggling through the same kind of hardships she faced.

?In just our city alone, there has to be thousands and thousands of people?single parents, senior citizens and children?who will be relying on the Christmas Bureau,? she commented.

In fact, this year the Christmas Bureau is hoping to provide meals to over 67,000 people, including 21,000 families and 1,800 seniors. In order to meet this goal, they will need to raise $1.4 million in the coming weeks.

For her part, Heagle is helping to organize the upcoming Winter Solstice & Silent Auction for the Faculty of Arts, an annual event that raises money for both the Christmas Bureau and the Edmonton Women?s Shelter.

Along with her fundraising efforts, Heagle is hoping that by telling her story she will inspire people to help in any way they can.

?Through caring and sharing, whether it is through monetary means or with what I have provided you with today, the sharing of my journey, we can all promote the spirit of Christmas.?

Faculty and staff in the Faculty of Arts can purchase tickets to the Winter Solstice & Silent Auction by contacting Barb Heagle at or 492-2474.

Internal Links:
Office of Interdisciplinary Studies

External Links:
Christmas Bureau of Edmonton

Santas Anonymous