Kai Madsen retires from Winnipeg Christmas Cheer Board
After more than five decades of helping make Christmas dreams come true for many Manitobans, Kai Madsen is retiring from his position as executive director of the Winnipeg Christmas Cheer Board.
It ends a long-time relationship with the board that delivers Christmas cheer through thousands of hampers to the city’s less fortunate.
“It’s been a wonderful journey, a large part of my life and I owe them a debt of gratitude,” said Madsen in a statement. “I’ve seen the best of everybody and when you think well of people, good things happen.”
Under Madsen’s leadership, the board, with help from donors and volunteers, delivered about 17,000 hampers every year.
Board chairperson Shawna Bell will take over the now-vacant executive director position, though she said Madsen is 'a heck of an act to follow.'
"No one can replace Kai," Bell told CTV News.
"My only hope is to take his vision and the excellent relationships that he's built year over year, and really continue with that just to strengthen the cheer board as we move forward into the future."
Bell has been volunteering with the cheer board for much of her adult life. She said she joined the board about five years ago, before moving into the role of president of the board.
"This year, with Kai deciding to step away, we really felt that it was important to have continuity for the coming year," she said.
"This is on an interim basis, we want to make sure everything runs fairly smoothly, and providing it does, I will look at becoming a more permanent fixture."
Bell said the Winnipeg Christmas Cheer Board has a big year ahead of it.
A new tenant is taking over the board's current home, so they are now looking for a new base of operations. As well, this year, Bell said the Winnipeg Christmas Cheer Board is transitioning to an online format as opposed to paper applications.
Last year, the pandemic forced the board to change tactics, so it handed out food vouchers instead. This year, the board hopes to return to normal full hamper deliveries.
"We are so optimistic that this year, we'll be able to welcome our volunteers all back and really get those hampers together as we have in the past," she said. "Last year was a bit of a challenge."
Bell said Madsen has been the linchpin in the organization, and though he is retiring from his current position, Bell said Madsen will still be involved.
Madsen said he cherished his time with the board and is thankful he had the opportunity to contribute to his community in such a meaningful way.