Help of volunteers critical to success of Community Centre 55’s Share a Christmas

Members of the Ted Reeve Thunder Pee Wee AA hockey team volunteer at Community Centre 55 on Wednesday night. Volunteers are needed the rest of this week and on Sunday, Dec. 22, to help with the Share a Christmas campaign. Photos: Alan Shackleton.

By ALAN SHACKLETON

Community Centre 55 was filled with volunteers on the night of Wednesday, Dec. 18, helping out this year’s Share a Christmas campaign as the first of five days of sorting donations, packing hampers and delivering them began.

Among the many volunteers helping to sort and pack donations of non-perishable food items at the 97 Main St. centre on Wednesday night were members of the Ted Reeve Thunder Pee Wee AA team.

Coach Joe Kim said that as the team’s players become older, volunteering to help with Share a Christmas was a chance to teach them about the importance of helping others.

“It’s good to get them to be aware of the community and ways that they can give back to the community,” he said. “It helps to make them appreciate the importance of helping others.”

Kim said many members of the team have been playing hockey together with Ted Reeve for a number of years and they are now at an age where they are realizing that Christmas is about more than getting gifts. This is the first time the team has volunteered to help out with Share a Christmas.

“They’re old enough now to understand the holidays are not just about receiving gifts but also about giving of themselves and their time for others,” said Kim.

This is the 38th year for Community Centre 55’s Share a Christmas campaign in the East Toronto community. More than 1,000 area families will be helped with donations of the hampers full of food and gifts as part of this year’s campaign.

With so many people to help, Share a Christmas requires the support of hundreds of volunteers who help with the collection of donations, sorting, packing and delivering of the hampers.

“We rely heavily on volunteers to help us for this campaign,” said Debbie Visconti, executive director of Community Centre 55 on Wednesday night.

“We really appreciate people taking time out of their busy holiday schedules to help. Without the volunteers, we could not do it.”

Volunteers are still needed tonight (Thursday, Dec. 19) and Friday, Dec. 20, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. to sort and pack non-perishable food donations. All ages are welcome to come and volunteer on these nights.

The toy sorting and packing takes place on Saturday, Dec. 21 from 10 a.m. to noon at Community Centre 55, and organizers ask that only adults volunteer for this task.

Volunteers will also be needed for most of the day on Sunday, Dec. 22. In the morning, from 9 to 11 a.m., the trucks with perishable food including turkeys, ham, milk, and cake will need to be unloaded and the items added to the hampers.

From noon until the job is finished, volunteers will also be needed on Dec. 22 to deliver the hampers to the families that are receiving them.

Visconti pointed out that the need for the hampers is growing in the community. “Our numbers (of people receiving hampers) are the highest they’ve ever been,” she said.

Without the delivery of the hampers, many families in the community would not be able to celebrate the holidays at all, said Visconti.

“They wouldn’t have a Christmas. There would be no turkey, no toys for the kids and no opportunity for them to even access food over the holidays.”

Visconti said that the hampers not only provide the makings of a Christmas dinner and gifts for children under age 16, but they also contain enough food in them to carry the families who receive them into the New Year. Most food banks are not open between Christmas and New Year’s Day, so the hampers are critically important to those who receive them, she said.

Baby food and pet food are also included in hampers for families that have those specific needs, said Visconti.

Residents who are not able to give their time volunteering are reminded that they can help support Share a Christmas by donating food, toys, items for pets, or money to the cause.

Most needed non-perishable food items include canned meat and fish, canned fruits and vegetables, cereal, rice, soups, stews, jam, macaroni and cheese and juice.

Donations of new toys for all ages are welcomed, but most needed are items for teenagers. Community Centre 55 suggests donations of gift cards, electronics, beauty supplies and sports equipment for the teens.

Donations of money to help the Share a Christmas campaign buy needed items are always welcome. The campaign accepts donations by cash, cheque and credit card. All monetary donations are eligible for a tax receipt.

As well, Share a Christmas needs donations to help pets as they also need to eat over the holidays. Most needed are dog and cat food donations, either in cans or bags.

For more information on volunteering, please contact Maitland at 416-691-1113, ext. 224 or by email at jade@centre55.com.

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


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