By ALAN SHACKLETON
Local residents are invited to come out and volunteer to help Community Centre 55’s annual Share A Christmas campaign this week.
Packing and sorting dates for the more than 800 hampers that will be going out to residents in need over the holiday season begins on the evening of Tuesday, Dec. 18, at the centre which is located at 97 Main St.
“We get approximately 100 volunteers a night and over the whole week including delivery day, it’s about 1,000 volunteers helping out,” said Jade Maitland, Special Events and Volunteer Coordinator at Community Centre 55.
This is the 37th year for Share A Christmas and its impact in the community is huge, said Maitland.
The hampers include food donations for not only a Christmas dinner, but also enough food to last most recipients well into the new year. The hampers delivered to families also include presents for children.
“I think the hampers are pretty crucial to the people who get them,” said Maitland. “Some people literally have nothing, so to be able to have food for a Christmas dinner is special. It also means the kids can get Christmas presents, which would otherwise be impossible for these families.”
Along with the toys and fixings for a Christmas dinner, the hampers are also packed full of food staples and other items which are much needed by those receiving the donations.
“This is really important to the people who receive them because it is a large amount of food items that will last them a long time,” said Maitland.
She said everyone is welcome to come out and volunteer, but pointed out the packing and sorting is a busy procedure and if young children are coming to help, their families need to be aware that it can be a hectic environment.
Volunteers are also asked to dress in layers as the temperature can vary in the building. “Bring your muscles as the food boxes can get heavy. Bring your patience as lots of elves come out to help,” said Community Centre 55’s website.
Maitland pointed out that many of the volunteers come out as a family and supporting Share A Christmas has become a holiday tradition for a large number of residents in the east Toronto area.
“A lot of people say it’s a tradition for them and they want to give back to the community,” she said. “They also want their kids to learn that it’s important to help out those who are less fortunate.”
Packing and sorting nights for non-perishable food items will be Dec. 18, 19 and 20 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. On Friday, Dec. 21, from 6 to 8 p.m. toys will be sorted and packed. Organizers ask that children not volunteer for the Dec. 21 session.
On Saturday, Dec. 22 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the packing and sorting of perishable food items and the loading of trucks will take place. Deliveries will then be made to community members from 1 p.m. on.
Maitland said many volunteers come with their own cars to help with deliveries. Also, a number of trucks are packed to go to residences such as apartment building which have a large number of recipients living in them.
“We have teen elves meet the trucks and the buildings to help deliver,” said Maitland.
To volunteer as a teen elf or driver to deliver hampers, please contact Maitland at 416-691-1113, ext. 224 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Anyone wishing to donate non-perishable food items, new unwrapped toys or money to Share A Christmas is asked to contact Community Centre 55 at 416-691-1113 or visit www.centre55.com