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The spirit of giving in full force

Lions Hall in Elmira was a hive of activity this week as volunteers prepared hampers for the WCS Christmas Goodwill program. The effort was overseen by coordinator of community support Tina Reed (left), and included the gift-wrapping skills of volunteers Sherri Dowdall and her mother Carol Knarr. [Steve Kannon]

That Christmas is the season of giving was on ample display this week at Lions Hall in Elmira, where volunteers were busy sorting, wrapping and packing up hampers for needy families.

Woolwich Community Services’ Christmas Goodwill program this year prepared 147 hampers, containing donated food, clothing and toys, for distribution today (Thursday). The hampers support 204 adults and 217 children.

It was the work of some 225 volunteers who put in more than 1,140 hours over five days, notes Tina Reed, WCS’s coordinator of community support.

“We have many volunteers from service clubs, churches, businesses, schools, as well as individuals and families,” she said Tuesday in the midst of  a hall lined with tables of donated goods where waves of helpers filled boxes to meet individualized needs.

Duties included wrapping each present, because it’s not Christmas without packages to open, said Reed. It’s a labour of love for the volunteers, many of whom come out annually.

“With the wrapping, for example, many of them come year after year. We’ve had people call in September for wrapping at Christmastime,” she said.

Among those putting things under wraps were volunteers such as Carol Knarr and her daughters Sherri Dowdall and Tracy Girling of Elmira. They’ve been volunteering to wrap presents for at least five years now.

“Sherri started it, then she brought the rest of the family in,” said Knarr.

“We practice at home, and then come here so we get it perfect,” she laughed.

Each of the presents sees donated and purchased items matched to the wish lists supplied by the children, Reed explained.

Each hamper also contains food – including a frozen turkey or ham – and other items from the seasonal food drives such as the one organized by the Kiwanis Club of Elmira. There’s also a gift card for an Elmira grocery store.

“They can purchase what they want, make it their own Christmas dinner,” said Reed.

When the hampers are all packed up, any leftovers certainly don’t go to waste. Toys, for instance, go into the WCS birthday cupboard – families in need of a birthday present for a child can peruse what’s available. Likewise, if a child is invited to a birthday party, he or she can draw on the WCS stock so as not to show up empty-handed. The food, meanwhile, helps restock the shelves at the food bank.

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