Organizers for the Great Nanaimo Toy Drive had moments when they thought COVID-19 might cancel the Christmas charity drive this year, but 2020 turned out to be the biggest year for donations in the drive’s 38-year history.
Social distancing and other COVID precautions cut back the usual 150 volunteers to about 70 who worked within family and social network bubbles to sort and select toys to create more than 400 ‘Santa sacks’ that have been picked up by Nanaimo’s less fortunate families.
The efforts by volunteers were matched by an explosion of support from the community.
“The response from the community was absolutely phenomenal,” said Carolyn Iles, Great Nanaimo Toy Drive publicity director. “I’ve been in the game for a while here and it has been such an honour to be a community pulling together and the caring and concern that they have for those in our neighbourhood that are having a struggle.”
Iles described this year’s donations as “over the top.”
“This has been the most donations we’ve had in a single year, ever, and it’s not just the larger ones,” she said. “We had people coming in and dropping off $100 at our drop-off centre and the people responding to the drives for toys were more than normal.”
Iles said people were upset this year when they couldn’t do the things they normally do because of COVID restrictions, so they found other ways to contribute, such as buying more toys or encouraging others to get involved or to donate.
“So it was a whole community effort this year.” she said. “It always is a community effort, but this year we outdid ourselves.”
This year the toy drive received more than $30,000 in donations. Major benefactors included World Financial Group, $19,755; Western Forest Products, $7,500; Whirlpool Canada, $2,500; B.C. Ferries and Marine Workers Union, $1,000; Dale Bronstein, $1,000; Chris Martin, Re/Max, $500 and Island Saving Credit Union Lead Well program, $500.
More than two dozen organizations and businesses provided other in-kind support as collection centres, product suppliers, pick-up locations and logistical support.
Iles said the toy drive can still take in donations leading up to Christmas, but those will be stored for the toy drive in 2021.