The year-long marathon to give 800 needy individuals and families from the city’s east end a Christmas is now in its final stretch.
With less than 10 days before delivery day, Community Centre 55 (CC55) has put out an urgent call for non-perishable goods to fill the hampers it will be distributing throughout the community through its 31st annual Share-A-Christmas program.
“We’re OK with toys, but the emphasis is on non-perishable food items like pasta, sauce, rice and canned meats and fish and canned vegetables and soup,” said Debbie Visconti, CC55’s executive director, during a recent interview. The Upper Beach area agency is still only about halfway to reaching its food collection goal, she said. “As you’re out doing your grocery shopping over the next few weeks, please think of us.”
Despite the challenges of providing enough food to feed 800 families and their pets, Visconti said she’s encouraged by the number of people who have come forward to adopt those who have signed up for the Share-A-Christmas program, which officially kicked off Nov. 25 with Hamper’s Christmas Parade on Kingston Road.
There’s still time left to adopt a family or an individual. Further, Visconti said collecting food, funds and toys/gifts for the less fortunate is a great way to make the holiday season more meaningful.
Some of the fun ways to support the Share-A-Christmas program include organizing a draw, planning a food drive or money collection at your 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 also available to attend any Share-A-Christmas fundraiser. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 416-691-1113 to reserve. A number of events have already taken place, while others are happening in the coming weeks, to raise funds for the program, which serves those living in an area bounded by Lake Ontario and Danforth, Coxwell and Victoria Park avenues.
People can also donate Canadian Tire money to the Share-A-Christmas campaign. Community Centre 55 is also selling Hamper the Reindeer Christmas cards. Area residents can also support the annual campaign by making a monetary donation.
Charitable tax receipts are available. Non-perishable food donations will be accepted at FreshCo at Gerrard Street East and Victoria Park Avenue and Price Chopper on Eastern Avenue and Leslie Street as well as at local CIBC branches, the Beaches Recreation Centre at 6 Williamson Rd. and Community Centre 55, 97 Main St., until Thursday, Dec. 20.
Dozens of volunteers will also be needed in the coming week to help sort, pack and deliver the 800 toy/food hampers. Registration is not required. Packing and sorting of non-perishables will take 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 starting at 2 p.m. Those interested in helping out should dress in layers as the building can get hot or cold and pack their patience.
“It’s a great family tradition for many people,” Visconti said, adding any extra toys or food will be donated to local shelters and food banks in the community. “Nothing is wasted. Every ounce of the tens of thousands of pounds of food we get is donated.”
Community Centre 55’s Share-A-Christmas program will also be providing toys and gifts to an additional 400 to 500 families across the city through its emergency distribution clinic after Dec. 22. Call 416-691-1113 for details.