Even the normally hands-on act of stuffing Christmas stockings is going virtual in a year fundamentally altered by the coronavirus pandemic.
In its tenth year, the StuffIn Stockings campaign organized by the St. Jacobs Lions Club has made changes to ensure the safety of volunteers and recipients alike this holiday season.
Typically, the club would hold fundraising events, with volunteers then gathering en masse to fill stockings with Christmas items for families in need. That’s all changed this year, says club president Melissa Fishman, who co-chairs the event with Deborah Malloy.
“This year, unfortunately, with the pandemic, we face the challenge of not being able to do the same collaborative type event to do the stuffing that we normally do. So in a typical year, we will probably have close to 100-150 people coming in and out of the St. Jacobs Lions Hall, whether they’re helping to set up or helping to physically fill stockings,” said Fishman, who estimates the group usually fills some 2,800 stockings.
Where the club would normally set up a booth during the St. Jacobs Sparkles event downtown as a way to raise money, the changes to that event meant that wasn’t an option for the Lions this year.
“We’re not able to do the same type of fundraising. We rely pretty heavily on events like Sparkles to be able to do our fundraising,” said Fishman.
Instead of physically putting stuff in stockings, the club is encouraging people to participate online via Amazon’s digital wishlist.
“People can go on and build a stocking almost like they would buy gifts on a wedding registry. And they can choose from a list of pre-populated items that we’ve selected that people are in the most need of and sent directly to us. And then we make sure those will get to the charities without having to do the whole process of handling everything in the in between,” she explained.
Items on the wishlist include clothes, hygiene products, toys, books and sweets. In addition to the wishlist, there is a general donation section on the event’s website.
This year’s campaign’s three beneficiaries are the Salvation Army, Community Care Concepts and Sanguen Health Centre.
“It’s definitely a struggle. I think that the need is greater than ever, and our regular donors are struggling to give as well. I think that the community at large is … everybody’s just so unsure and that everybody knows that the need is high. So, I’m sure that everybody will rally and come together and make a nice Christmas for everyone,” said Malloy, who is unsure what donation levels will look like this year.
“I think our main focus this year is making sure that everybody in the community is safe, our volunteers as well as the charities we work with. So we’re really focusing on ‘stay safe and shop at home or donate at home.’ We have created an Amazon wishlist, so we’re hoping that between the donate button on our website as well as the Amazon wishlist that people will be able to comfortably and safely donate that way.”
More information on how to support the cause can be found online.