The 31st annual Share-A-Christmas campaign is set to be the biggest one yet as Community Centre 55 (CC55) aims to collect food and gift hampers for an estimated 800 less fortunate local families and individuals this holiday season.
“This year we are expecting a higher volume of recipients,” said Debbie Visconti, CC55’s executive director, explaining numbers are up this year as WoodGreen Community Services isn’t running its annual Christmas hamper program.
“We’ll need more donations of food and toys to accommodate the extra families we will be serving.”
She said the need is especially great as the City of Toronto’s well-used Christmas Bureau has fallen victim to budgetary cutbacks.
For several years, CC55 has provided toys and gifts to an additional 400 to 500 families across the city through its emergency distribution clinic after Dec. 22. Visconti said she expects a significant increase in demand because of the cutbacks.
“We’ll do whatever we can for people. We won’t turn anyone away,” she said.
“People in our community have been very supportive and we expect they will help us again this year.”
Community Centre 55’s Share-A-Christmas program, the biggest yearly initiative at the Upper Beach-area agency, officially kicked off for the season Sunday, Nov. 25 with Hamper’s Christmas Parade on Kingston Road followed by a post-parade celebration at the local community centre.
A number of events are planned for the coming weeks to raise much-needed funds for the annual program.
On Saturday, Dec. 1, people are invited to join Santa Claus for a pancake breakfast at Community Centre 55, 97 Main St., at Swanwick Avenue. The event, which runs from 8 to 10 a.m., costs $3 per person. Reservations are not required.
Later that evening, those 19 years of age and older are invited to take part in the 10th annual 12 Cheers of Christmas Pub Night, which will run from 6 p.m. to midnight.
Admission is $20 per person and includes appetizers, trivia and karaoke at the final pub. A shuttle service, departing from CC55 and transporting revelers from pub to pub and back, will also be provided.
Community members are also asked to bring non-perishable food for the Share-A-Christmas program to the Toronto Beaches Lions Club’s Old Fashioned Christmas Tree Lighting at Kew Gardens Saturday from 5 to 7 p.m.
The newly rebranded Centre 55 Tanenbaum 10k race is also expected to benefit the Share-A-Christmas program in a big way as nearly twice as many people have already signed up to take part in the Sunday, Dec. 2 event. For more details, visit www.tanenbaum10k.com.
Further, community members are invited to attend the All About The Benjamin’s Memorial Christmas Fundraiser for Community Centre 55 Saturday, Dec. 8.
This event, which will include door prizes, a 50/50 draw, games, a DJ, cash bar and more, will take place at the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 73, at 2 Robinson Ave., near Danforth Road and Danforth Avenue.
Aside from supporting various fundraising events, area residents can support the annual campaign by making a monetary donation. Charitable tax receipts are available.
People can donate Canadian Tire money to the program, which serves those living in an area bounded by Lake Ontario and Danforth, Coxwell and Victoria Park avenues.
Non-perishable human/pet food as well as toys for children from babies to teens are also greatly needed. Items can be dropped off at CC55, the Beaches Recreation Centre at 6 Williamson Rd., FreshCo at Gerrard Street East and Victoria Park Avenue, Price Chopper on Eastern Avenue and at local CIBC branches until Thursday, Dec. 20.
Some of the fun ways to support the Share-A-Chrsitms program include organizing a draw, planning a food drive or money collection at your family or corporate Christmas party, adopting a family or taking part in the CANpaign program by placing a money collection can at your business or holiday event.
The centre’s mascot, Hamper the Reindeer, is more than happy to attend any Share-A-Christmas fundraiser. Anyone who would like Hamper to make an appearance can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 416-691-1113 as soon as possible.
Community Centre 55 is also selling Hamper the Reindeer Christmas cards.
As always, a veritable army of volunteers will be needed to help sort, pack, and deliver the food and toy hampers. Registration is not required.
Packing and sorting of non-perishables takes place Tuesday, Dec. 18, Wednesday, Dec. 19 and Thursday, Dec. 20 from 6 to 8 p.m.
Toys will be sorted and packed Friday, Dec. 21 from 6 to 8 p.m. No children please.
Perishable food items will be packed and sorted Saturday, Dec. 22 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. with delivery set to begin that same day beginning at 2 p.m.
Those interested in helping out should dress in layers as the building can get hot/cold, bring their muscles as the food boxes can get heavy and pack their patience as lots of elves come out to help and things can get a bit hectic at times.
Anyone with questions can contact CC55 at email@example.com or 416-691-1113.