The numbers are up.

The money is down.

Those of us who volunteer for Christmas Cheer are sitting at our new centre at 364 St Vincent St holding Christmas in our hands. We've just come from a team meeting. We have 4539 people who are counting on us for their entire Christmas this year... 1,513 families. Over 3,000 little kids. These are families in Barrie, Essa, Innisfil, Angus, south Oro.

We try to make sure that every family receives a hamper of food for a week, a turkey, fresh fruit and vegetables, cranberry, potato, dessert, the fixings for Christmas dinner. We ordered that food back in July when we could lock down the lowest prices. We order it with hope that we'll be able to pay for it when it's delivered in December.

We also try to make sure that every child receives a bag of two big toys, reading books, small toys, colouring books, crayons, a toque, mittens... essentials and thrills for every age group. Teenagers get gift certificates.

It's a tall order. It's a campaign that is 38 days long. It involves schools, community groups, clubs, individual families, work groups, and people like you. School classrooms are collecting food and toys and they'll all be delivered to our centre on Thursday and Friday (today and tomorrow).

Here's our concern...

Right now we're behind in our donations for this year. Our goal of $170,000 is hovering in the $65,000 mark.

And so... and so... there are so many reasons to empty the piggy bank, write a cheque, open a purse, drop by with a bill or two.

We've set up so many ways for people to give to Christmas Cheer... you can go on our website, www.christmascheerbarrie.com and donate online. You can write a cheque and mail it to Christmas Cheer, Box 161, Barrie, ON, L4M 4T2. You can bring it to our Action Central location at 364 St Vincent St, at Bell Farm Rd. You can phone us at 730-0449 and we'll come and pick it up.

You can make a donation to Christmas Cheer as a gift for any member of your family, or a friend, a boss, a colleague. We'll give you a gift card to present as your gift.

You can include us in your Christmas shopping by picking up a few extra items. You can drop them in drop boxes all over Barrie, or bring them to us at Action Central. You can buy baby items, board books, baby toys, or toys that your own children would love. We're always short of baby items and this year we're desperate for toys for eight and nine year old girls.

There's lots of inspiration!

Young Ben came by last year with a small cardboard box. He'd been putting his allowance money in the box all year... he donated it all to Christmas Cheer. Over at Georgian College, five-year-old Zakk whose mom works at Georgian, opened Zakk's Lemonade Stand at the college. In one day he raised $500 by selling lemonade he made and cookies made by the staff at Campus Connections. Last year, Zakk celebrated his November birthday by asking not for gifts, but for money which he then donated to Christmas Cheer.

We know that today Sue Barker will send over 200 trikes from Georgian, complete with helmets, so that every Christmas Cheer child under 5 gets a trike for Christmas. Volunteers from Royal Victoria Hospital are knitting mittens to go with every trike. Everyone who works at Georgian, or attends Georgian contributes their Canadian Tire money year round... that's what buys the trikes. Carpentry students at Georgian are building rocking horses, stools, pull toys that will become treasured gifts for Christmas Cheer children.

Who are these people who apply for Christmas Cheer? Well, often they are working flat out to support their families, stringing together one or two jobs. Sometimes they're people who are unable to work, sidelined by illness. Sometimes they're grandparents on fixed incomes who unexpectedly are raising grandchildren. This year, we're seeing people who've lost their jobs or had their hours cut and are desperate just to pay the rent! Our application process is respectful and thorough and completed with great care.

Many of our volunteers today are recipients from years ago.

Whatever... whoever... it's a community of people caring for each other. Why? Because everyone deserves to have a Christmas!

Blessings to our community. Blessings to you!

And, thanks!

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