BARRHEAD – Christmas may be a little more than a month away, but for the staff and volunteers of Santa's Toy Box, it is just around the corner.
Santa's Toy Box is a Barrhead and District Family Community Support Services (FCSS) program that ensures parents and guardians have something special to give their children on Christmas morning.
The deadline to register for Santa's Toy Box and its companion Christmas Hamper program, is Dec. 9. Applicants must also provide proof of residency in one of the Barrhead municipalities or the Fort Assiniboine area.
Community and volunteer development coordinator Trisha Enman said they've changed the program a bit following the lead of similar initiatives in Westlock and other communities by allowing parents and guardians to select gifts for their children.
"They will make an appointment for Dec. 15, 16, 19 or 20 and have a chance to build their child's package themselves," Enman said. "We wanted to give parents and grandparents more of a sense that they are involved in their child's Christmas."
In the past, parents would have filled out a mini questionnaire about their child's gender, age, clothing sizes and interests and volunteers would select what they believed would be the most appropriate selections.
"And although they do their best, no one knows their child better than their loved ones," she said.
However, Enman said that if a parent is not comfortable or cannot come to FCSS, they still have the option of having a volunteer select something for them.
Ways to help
Enman said there are several ways for people to help. The first is by donating a new toy, clothing item, sporting equipment, beauty item or gift card appropriate for a child from newborn to older teen and drop it off at FCSS or in the bin at Sanderman's Home Hardware on Main Street. Of course, she noted people can also donate financially.
People can also participate in many of the toy drives that will be happening in the run-up to Christmas.
Two such drives are the "Fill-a-Trunk" drive hosted by Barrhead Ford from Nov. 14 to Dec. 9 and the "Fill-an-RCMP Cruiser" event from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Red Apple on Dec. 3.
Enman said both Barrhead Composite High School and Barrhead Elementary School have also expressed interest in holding their own toy drive events.
"We haven't done much of a push so far," she said, noting FCSS recently moved locations. "The real kick-off to the campaign is Light-up (Nov. 18), because people don't start thinking about Christmas until after Remembrance Day."
Enman said people can also adopt or sponsor a family.
"They have their preference on the family makeup, in terms of the number of kids, so people have some budget options," she said.
FCSS will then match them up with an appropriate family and give them information about the gender, age, clothing sizes and interests of the children. The sponsor then goes out and buys all the gifts, wraps them and delivers them to the FCSS for distribution. Sponsors also have the option of providing a Christmas food hamper by purchasing a Pembina West Co-op or Freson Brothers food card and an additional $25 for a turkey or ham.
Technically a separate program, the Christmas hamper, as Enman alluded to, often goes hand-in-hand with Santa's Toy Box.
Hamper recipients receive their choice of turkey or ham along with a food certificate (value based on the number of people in the household) from one of the community's grocery stores to cover the perishable items such as vegetables, buns, etc. The Food Bank also provides a box of canned and other Christmas-themed non-perishable items, such as stuffing and cranberry sauce, cookies and crackers, based on availability.
For more information about either Santa’s Toy Box, the Christmas hamper programs, contact Enman at 780-674-3341. Donations for Santa's Toy Box and the Food Bank can be dropped off Monday-Friday at FCSS at 5103-51st Street.