I’m writing this sitting at a makeshift table in a back office at Christmas Cheer. We have cavernous space this year, and it’s quickly filled up with toys and food and donated goodness.
A virtual army of volunteers has found us on Tiffin St and filled out the volunteer forms, donned a name tag and taken their place wherever we needed them. For over a week the core of volunteers has been here about eight hours a day, focussing on problem solving and calculating and projecting.
John Porter and his outdoor team have been organizing the reception and distribution route that is so necessary now that we’re giving to so many people.
So many businesses have been giving equipment and supplies that are so critical to our week-long operation.
People have been hauling in huge bags of toys–beautiful toys–that they’ve bought. Our mystery knitter sent along bags of barbie dolls with beautiful hand knitted clothes, all done up in hand-sewn cloth bags. It’s an atmosphere of giving over here and it’s overwhelming. Food Elf, Jim Gabel is counting the boxes and bags of fruit, stuffing, cereal, etc that our buyer Dolores Courtis-Hamilton negotiates for.
Toy elf Val Blaker and her army of volunteers is sorting toys and packing them into bags for children. So many beautiful, beautiful toys!
President Hank Thibideau is running out to do TV and radio interviews arranged by Media Coordinator Kory Hopkins, letting the community know that our $220,000 goal is still there and due to the generosity of Barrie people, we’re closing in on it.
Casey Hooymans is organizing the Angus and Essa drive, preparing to distribute to recipients in his area. Bronno Niemeyer and Owen McGee are making sure Innisfil is taken care of. And Donations Secretary Cindy Tonn is working on excel spreadsheets of financial donors, large and small, as the money rolls in.
Cheryl Jones and her Canteen team are keeping all the volunteers fed. It’s so big and so good. Every now and then we open a letter from a child who emptied their piggy bank and we all pause and read together. Ten year old William Parry just left, having brought huge bags of toys AND $1130 he raised on his website.
And while this is happening here on Tiffin St, the same scene is playing out at Salvation Army, at the Grocery Assistance Program, the Food Bank, at Children’s Aid and at smaller centres around Barrie…
and whether you’re of the Christian faith or the live-simply-with-love philosophy, this kind of activity represents that in full force.
Certainly in Canada, Christmas represents that stepping outside of ourselves to think of other people… nowhere is it stronger than right here in Barrie.
The kindness of this community is giving Christmas food and gifts and meals and caring to 1,562 children, 1012 teens and 1,800 adults through Christmas Cheer. Our hearts are full.