$235,000 goal; thousands to care for; elves moving into high gear

It’s that time.

It’s because they believe that Everyone deserves to have a Christmas that the two dozen people who direct Barrie’s Christmas Cheer organization are in heavy planning stages.

Daily reports of cheques coming in; calls from businesses for drop boxes for toys and food; events being held as Christmas Cheer fundraisers; school kids mobilizing to fill hampers to outdo last year’s effort… there are so many people in this community who are working to help make Christmas a place of happiness on Tuesday, December 25.

There are literally hundreds of people who volunteer their time and resources to make Christmas Cheer happen in this community. And for 40 years this organization has provided people a place to give and receive. When Diane Gayler’s applications team finished interviewing applicants to receive food and toys finished this week we found we have 1,848 families which translates to about 5,000 people. Many recipients have one or two full or part time jobs but the extra expense of Christmas just slams them. Many are grandparents who are raising grandchildren full time, often on subsistence fixed incomes. Many are single parents who are in school or in jobs and working for a better future. Many have health challenges of many kinds which makes it difficult to hold down full time work, or any work at all.

Many of the volunteers who are unloading food and toys, creating a food store and a toy store so other volunteers can ‘shop’ for kids toy bags and pack hampers for family food, many of these volunteers were once recipients. Life teaches us that we can all walk in and out of need!

Our food shopper Dolores Courtis-Hamilton has ordered around $80,000 worth of food, so each hamper is consistent and she’s been diligent in spending money that we are still raising.

Our financial goal for 2012 is $235,000 and we have 38 days to raise this. We’ll attempt to raise this much again in food and toys, which makes the campaign short term and time bound. Cheques are arriving daily, and people are taking advantage of being able to donate online.

People are making their Christmas Cheer donation their gift to their friends and using our gift cards to help make that happen. Cindy Tonn and Rychard Lardner are the funds people and they make sure we meet budget in all categories.

The lovely thing about Christmas Cheer is there are no paid staff. Our facilities are donated; we have very few expenses because so many businesses give so much. So, a dollar donated to Christmas Cheer has about 3 cents going to expenses and the rest goes right into food hampers and toy bags, to gift certificates and food vouchers.

Our website has become the engine that is driving the energy and resources for this campaign. Thank you Kory Hopkins and Decent Exposure for making this happen. www.christmascheerbarrie.com

The most organized guy in Barrie has to be Brad Ellis, coordinator of distribution day. Darryl Culley is handling the outside facility with hundreds of cars coming and going from our 364 St Vincent St location. It’s taking an army of volunteers to coordinate just the outside activity.

Val Blaker and her team of toy elves are taping batteries onto toys that need them; sorting toddler toys from eight year old toys, and teaching shoppers what to put in each bag.

Jim Gabel and Jean Bamford are overseeing food. And Nat Caron is handling the extras, the items we receive that we can’t use. These are redistributed to 20 other charities.

We have volunteers at the welcome desk, volunteers helping Cheryl Jones in the canteen, volunteers helping Rob Hargreaves collect corporate donations. Our new secretary, Barb Armstrong, is learning the ropes from our ‘old’ secretary Kristin Taylor who is moving to the events committee.

Mirrored activities happen in Angus (under the direction of Casey Hooymans) and Innisfil (under Owen McGee) and the team continues to move towards Distribution Day.

And leading the charge is president Ted Blaker, with vice president Andrea Johnston and past president Hank Thibideau at his side.

It’s a complex, coordinated effort and it is all borne from the goodness in people’s hearts.

As I write this, we are far from our goal of $235,000. But with snowflakes come dollars and we feel quite confident that the hearts of Barrie will fill the sack once more.

What an incredible group of people to work with.  Thanks!