This community has experienced incredible growth in the past decade. In it all, though, we've been able to hold on to that small-town essence of a caring community.

Barrie residents reach into their lives and give to others. The Five Points Fire is one example of a community that comes together. This community came together in July when several downtown businesses were destroyed in a fire two blocks west of the Five Points. Tragic loss for people whose homes and businesses were ripped away from them. And, it's a miracle, truly, that no one was hurt.

And so as we rebuild, we are reminded of what makes community. It's a reaching out, beyond ourselves, to care about other people.

Tonight (Wednesday) I watched as the Royal Canadian Air Force Huronia Wing handed Major Alonso Twyne (Salvation Army) $1000 hard earned dollars for their continued work with homeless, jobless, and those suffering from addictions or in prison.

Another woman approached Major Twyne to hand over $100 from a relative in England who wanted to donate money to the fire victims.

All over Barrie (and beyond), people are extending themselves, offering shelter, food, jobs, clothes, things to help people start again.

My day began at the Barrie and District Real Estate Board. Its members celebrated their annual meeting by giving away money... $2000 to Out of the Cold as their ongoing support for the homeless. But, they didn't forget people who need... $760 came to Christmas Cheer, support for more than two families!

Morra Homes held their first annual holiday party and expected to fill one Christmas Cheer donation box with unwrapped toys. When Toy Chair Barb Pollard arrived to collect the donations, it filled a pickup truck's box right to the roof.

The Barrie Folk Society has rallied to hold a fundraiser next weekend. Songs from Our Heart fundraiser will feature Canadian folk icon Garnet Rogers to headline an evening of music to help raise funds for the Five Points fire victims. It's to be held Friday, Dec 21 at Barrie Public Library and the $12 tickets will all go to support the Fire victims. Call 728-1010 for tickets.

We heard today from a small Health & Safety Training and Consulting group that wants to adopt a Christmas Cheer family ... we are delighted to oblige.

And books! Christmas Cheer is desperate for reading books for the hundreds of children it supports. The Association of Administrative Assistants responded and and one of its members has arranged for 200 books for children aged 5-7!

The RCAF handed out a cheque for $1000 to Christmas Cheer today.

The Innisfil Community Reinvestment Fund has donated $10,000 for the Innisfil recipients of Christmas Cheer! Maycourt Club is supporting gift certificates for Christmas Cheer teenagers this year, enabling us to give gifts to kids we've never been able to support.

Wanda Collison and her artisans project at Simcoe County Museum in November initiated a Gingerbread house competition, the first ever this year... a cheque for $1420 arrived for Christmas Cheer.

A few hours at Rona's Christmas Cheer Day brought in over $2365.

Fred Lee, one of the owners at Premiere Van Lines has offered free use of a truck with driver for Christmas Cheer's use. This will help enormously as we pick up full boxes of food and toys all over Barrie.

On and on and on. I dropped in to get my mail at Anne Earle's wonderful UPS Store this morning and she handed me two hand-made, adorable stuffed rabbit dolls, completely dressed in hand made clothes. These are for Christmas Cheer kids.

The Kiwanis Club of Barrie has a cheque for $1200... a welcome donation as we head into our final week. The Parkview Singers raised $1000 during their concert last week.

Major Roy Randell says he's amazed at the resilience of people who've lost their homes in the Five Points fire. As the fund reaches in the neighbourhood of $15,000, it'll be used to help people re-establish themselves. But the donations of apartments, computers for the students, clothing, free rent for a few months... These efforts are making a huge difference for the fire victims.

Roy says that as he speaks to those dislocated by the fire, their resilience and their attitudes of gratitude are the most significant aspect for him.

"I feel confident that we'll get everyone taken care of. Councillor Jeff Lehman has been fabulous. He put two forms in front of me and asked for two signatures and opened the bank account at Bank of Montreal for the fire victims. He's been fantastic."

So many businesses have offered help in one form or another. Meanwhile the Salvation Army kettles are waiting for dropped coins of care for others.

And while Christmas Cheer mobilizes to make sure one big day is indeed plentiful, we also cooperate with 22 other charities across this community to make sure everyone has what they need. Nothing is wasted. Everything is appreciated. And we live in a city of plenty for one reason. Only one reason.

People care.

Thank you!

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