The Windermere United Church congregation and its partners are ensuring that this Christmas is an extra special one for as many as eight local families.
They have raised more than $2,000 to purchase gifts for both individuals and families within the neighbourhood.
“We forget that this neighbourhood, although it’s affluent, has pockets that aren’t,” said Minister Alexa Gilmour.
Windermere United Church has had a tradition of helping people over the years. Throughout its history, it has had an Out-of-the-Cold and clothing depot. As it grows, the church is looking more and more at ways it can meet both the physical and spiritual needs of people in Toronto.
“We know we can’t do it alone and this year we are partnering with some fabulous individuals and groups to make this season brighter for some of our friends in Toronto,” said Gilmour. “We hope the current relationships will grow and others will partner with us in the future. It is a pretty heartening experience to be a part of.”
To be a part of Windermere United Church’s congregation, one does not need to attend Sunday morning service, stressed Gilmour.
“You can partner with us in other ways,” she said.
Most of the Christmas baskets they put together were by “generous, compassionate” congregants, but they had help from a local store manager, who was inspired by Windermere’s efforts. She created a basket for a local family. As did the local moms’ group, Mom Vet. The Swansea chapter of the group is 20 mothers strong, according to one mom, Heather Chiavegato.
“As a group, we decided to do the gift baskets as we wanted to help local families in some way. This is our second year doing the baskets,” said Chiavegato.
C&G (Comics and Gaming) Magazine donated Nintendo games for one of the families with three children. Creating the baskets is just one piece of the puzzle. Delivering them is just as important. Emmanuel Howard Park United Church’s West End Angels Outreach program, which serves 11,000 meals a year to people in need, will take on that role along with Light Patrol, an organization that visits and supports the needs of street youth.
Windermere is supporting its initiative Operation Good Thing to put sleeping bags, ground sheets, restaurant gift cards, hats and gloves into a duffel bag and into the hands of a youth on the street this winter.
In addition to the gift baskets, there are little wrapped packages of toiletries and candy. They will be blessed at this Sunday’s church service before going out to the families, said Gilmour.