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Christmas Cheer demand higher than years past (5 photos)

Volunteers at the Christmas Cheer Depot in the Station Mall are on track to helping 2,000 families this holiday season

Around 40 volunteers are working hard at the Christmas Cheer Depot in the Station Mall as demand has grown substantially for local children and adolescents in need of toys, gifts, and other items.

Christmas Cheer convenor Diane Marshall estimates they’ll be assisting hundreds of more families this season compared to last year.

“We helped over 1,700 last year, and we’re looking at upwards of 2,000 this year,” she says.

The depot is short on several items including Legos, stuffed animals, toys for toddlers under three, family board games, gloves and mitts, Station Mall gift cards, and cleaning products for teenagers.

“We have more people asking, and fewer people giving,” says Lee McMenemy, the Christmas Cheer packing coordinator. “Part of it is inflation.”

Volunteers at the depot have been going the extra mile to individualize as many gifts as possible so that it’s specially made for the child and meets the criteria of what they asked for.

“It’s labour intensive, but when you picture them on Christmas morning being excited about getting exactly what they wanted – it’s incredible,” McMenemy says.

An example of their custom-made efforts is the doll department, where a group of hardworking ladies sew doll clothes and put together handcrafted doll packages and other bundles for the kids.  

Some ladies who don’t volunteer at the depot even sew on their own time and send them in to Christmas Cheer.

“One lady brought in 84 hand-knitted sweaters that she made over the last year,” McMenemy says. “We have some very generous families.”

Co-convenor Chris Barnes is blown away by the support they’ve received and he's incredibly thankful for the community's kind donations. 

“For five or six weeks, they’re 40-hour weeks for them,” he says. “We start meeting back in September, and the volunteers are working during the summer. There are 90-year-old women who have donated over 100 toques and other crocheted items.”

“We have the most dedicated people that you would ever want,” Marshall adds. “They devote their five weeks to the program. They’re here early in the morning until they’re finished at night. We have an incredible team.”

While the demand is high, Christmas Cheer has established partnerships with several businesses and groups in town that helps ensure no child is left without a gift during the holidays.

Savings World on Trunk Road is providing coupons towards second-hand skates for applicants who had requested them.

Until Dec. 1, parking tickets received from the city can be paid for by donating a new children’s toy of equal or greater value to the fine in support of Christmas Cheer.

The depot is also thankful for local Tim Horton’s owner Rico Fata who supplied them with a bundle of hockey sticks.

“He’s been very generous and provided us with all the sticks we need for this year,” McMenemy says.

Christmas Cheer will be accepting donations at the Soo Greyhounds game this Sunday, and they'll have stuffed animals available for purchase to be thrown on the ice for the annual Teddy Bear Toss.

Applications to be a Christmas Cheer recipient are open until Dec. 2 by phoning 705-575-5100.

Donations can be dropped off at the Christmas Cheer Depot in the Station Mall’s former I.D.A. until Dec. 12, but the public is encouraged to donate gifts as soon as possible.

Donor recipients will receive a call that their parcel has arrived for pickup at their designated subdepot on Dec. 14.

The Christmas Cheer Depot is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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Alex Flood

About the Author: Alex Flood

Alex is a recent graduate from the College of Sports Media where he discovered his passion for reporting and broadcasting
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