Volunteers who joined this year’s Share A Christmas campaign say the charity drive is what makes their Christmas.
Run by Community Centre 55, Share A Christmas delivered food and gifts to 775 families on Dec. 22, and 517 children’s toys the next day.
Centre 55 also provided turkeys for Christmas dinners held at Calvary Baptist Church, the Royal Canadian Legion and Mainstay Housing.
“They do a phenomenal job,” said Leanne Rapley, who started volunteering with the campaign five or six years ago.
This year, the biggest delivery day went off without a hitch, Rapley said — a welcome change after the 2013 ice storm brought power outages just as all the Share A Christmas packages had to go out.
“Last year I was the last one home after delivery day,” Rapley said.
“I can remember driving along Gerrard thinking, ‘Why is everything so, so dark?’ Even more power off than earlier in the day — it was just awful.”
Seena Diaz, a Share A Christmas volunteer for the last 15 years, remembers how disappointed she felt when a huge tree branch fell on her car last year, preventing her from running deliveries.
But this year was another story.
“I think delivery day was done in record time,” Diaz said. “It was amazing.”
Local 55 Division police took part by blocking off a part of Swanwick Avenue to all but delivery drivers, allowing them to quickly gather fresh and non-perishable food from Centre 55, plus the gifts that range from toys to toothbrushes, even pet food.
Some 900 of those items were collected by students at the Kimberley/Beaches Alternative schools across the street, while Malvern Collegiate ran a Christmas craft fair and a first-ever double-header hockey game to help with fundraising.
Diaz said she and her mom volunteer together each Share A Christmas, and she and her brother also adopted a family each year until he passed away one Christmas Day.
Since then, Diaz said she began volunteering at the centre even more.
“There’s such a sense of community,” she said, adding that several families volunteered at Share A Christmas for the first time this year, and brought their kids to help out.
“They’ll do it again, and it will become part of their Christmas tradition,” said Diaz. “It’s part of mine.”
And for anyone without family nearby, Diaz said Share A Christmas is an especially good thing to join.
“If you’re lonely at Christmas, this is the place to be.”