‘Tis the season of giving, with the Woolwich Christmas Goodwill Program an annual part of the holiday spirit in the townships since the agency opened its doors in 1974. This year’s version will be different, but WCS is still looking for support from the community.
The hamper program plays a key role in ensuring all residents get to enjoy some Christmas cheer.
“The Christmas goodwill program is for low-income families from Woolwich Township and the northern part of Wellesley. We offer clothing, toys, a turkey or ham and grocery gift card. And in previous years, we would offer nonperishable foods, but due to the pandemic, we’ve changed that process. And now we’re going to offer more on their gift card at the grocery store,” explained Tina Reed, community support coordinator.
The decision to switch gears from nonperishable food items towards additional funds on grocery store gift cards was made to reduce close contact and follow public health measures in protecting staff, volunteers and community members, she added.
The Kiwanis Club would typically do a community-wide food drive in November, but that was deemed problematic this year.
“The amount of volunteers to pull off that day, then for us to sort it for our hamper—we stopped that just to keep our community safe. We would try to tweak our programs so that we wouldn’t have volunteers that would be too close to each other,” said Reed of this year’s changes.
Reed estimates that every year approximately 160 families within the community are supported by the program, but WCS is uncertain what the numbers will look like this year given that so many people have been out of work or suffered economic hardships due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s always hard to tell. We just opened up for people to register. We do have new families coming in,” she said.
The agency encourages those who are struggling to reach out to the team at WCS., “We do want people to know that we have enough for everybody that comes through our doors. We make sure that there’s enough and no one gets turned away.”
Along with food items, the program is also looking for new clothing and toys to help fill the hampers. There is also another facet of the program known as the ‘wish trees’. At local hardware stores in Elmira, Linwood and St. Jacobs, they can take a star off the tree and buy a toy. New to this year’s event is a ‘Wish tree’ aimed at adults at Canadian Tire.
WCS has been trying to expand the gifts-for-adults part of the program.
“Home Hardware stores have been involved for quite a while,” she said. “We made contact this year with Canadian Tire and asked if they would want to come on board. And they said yes.”
Those supporting the program also have the option of sponsoring a family. Participants will be given a list of family members, which includes their clothing sizes and ages, without names to ensure information is kept confidential. Reed suggests that if people are interested in sponsoring a family and are thinking of buying items online, they allow time for shipping.
The hamper program has already seen some community support from the like of the Elmira Lions Club, which ran a bottle drive to raise some $2,200. Club member Bert Martin said the group is thankful for the support of the community, as well as for programs like the goodwill hampers.
“We’d like our community to know that we’re here them. We want to make this Christmas great for everyone, with the help of our community, getting the donations and then with people coming in to get the hampers,” said Reed.