The Great Nanaimo Toy Drive is back for another yule season and organizers are looking for donations of presents for children and teenagers and want to recruit volunteers, too.
The Great Nanaimo Toy Drive, assisting families in Nanaimo, Lantzville, Cedar and Cassidy, has been operating since 1983 and is the city’s biggest annual toy drive to ensure children of families in need have presents under the tree on Christmas.
This year’s toy drive held its official kick-off event at Woodgrove Centre on Tuesday, Nov. 15, when Great Nanaimo Toy Drive organizers, mall staff and Nanaimo Clippers hockey team members turned out to announce the start of the campaign and drop the first presents into a giant red toy box.
Donations can be dropped of until Dec. 18 at Woodgrove Centre, Nanaimo North Town Centre, Country Club Centre, all Coastal Community Credit Union and Save-On-Foods locations in Nanaimo, Nanaimo Fire Rescue stations, the Port Theatre, the Nanaimo Museum, Budget Self Storage, Lucid and Pomme Natural Market.
The toy drive provides toys, books, stocking stuffers and stuffed animals for each child, plus a game or puzzle for each registered family.
Krystle Malinski, toy drive coordinator, said during the COVID-19 pandemic the toy drive has received more money donations and fewer toys.
“We really would like more toys,” she said. “It’s nice to shop, but it’s nice to have the physical toy and we do need [gifts for] teens.”
Gifts for babies are needed too, Malinski said. The donations tend to be scarcer for teens and babies and go quickly when registered families come to collect presents to have under the tree for Christmas morning.
The toy drive serves up to 1,300 children from 600 families each Christmas and the demand continues to rise. Malinski said about 1,100 children received gifts last Christmas.
“It’s gone up a lot over the years,” she said. “This is hard times with inflation and COVID and people losing their jobs.”
The Great Nanaimo Toy Drive needs volunteers, too, especially to help families go “shopping” for their children’s gifts at the toy drive distribution centre.
“In past years, [volunteers] have been bagging up toys and handing the bags of them and doing shopping for them as volunteers, but this year people … want to come and ‘shop’ for their kids…” Malinski said. “They come in, they’re given a number, they get to go out with a volunteer and actually go to each table and hand-pick what they want for their child.”
The toy drive could use another two dozen volunteers able to take on three-hour shifts.
Registrations for families wishing to receive gifts from the toy drive is underway and will continue until Dec. 2.
To make a donation, register, become a volunteer or learn more about the Great Nanaimo Toy Drive, visit http://thegreatnanaimotoydrive.ca.