Charities offer families a helping hand

NANAIMO – Organizations share campaign proceeds with struggling families in the city

Gary McDoagh

Gary McDoagh

Christmas can be a tough time for low-income families.

Many families struggle throughout the year to put food on the table, but during the holidays, the pressure is on to make a visit from Santa happen as well.

That is where the Nanaimo News Bulletin’s Pennies for Presents campaign comes in.

The campaign collects change, which is then doled out to three organizations that support children in Nanaimo – the Great Nanaimo Toy Drive, the Salvation Army and the Nanaimo Boys and Girls Club.

Carolyn Iles, publicity director for the toy drive, met a volunteer with the toy drive earlier this week who had used the service eight years ago when her husband lost his job and the family of five was facing a Christmas without presents.

“It’s not always a handout we are giving to people, it’s a hand up,” she said.

“It gave her and her husband a little bit of relief and a feeling that the community supports them. And that gave them courage to continue to look for ways to improve their economic situation.”

The woman now volunteers her time to ensure the service is available to other families, said Iles.

Staff at the Boys and Girls Club know which families are struggling and could use a helping hand.

“It is one of the toughest times for families,” said Ian Kalina, executive director. “We are in a society that still prides itself on having a lot. But lots of people struggle to feed themselves.”

Of the families the Boys and Girls Club serves, 37 per cent are single parents, six per cent earn under $10,000 per year and 22 per cent earn between $10,000 and $25,000.

Staff at the organization use the money from Pennies for Presents to buy toys, clothes and gift cards for the most needy families it works with.

The Salvation Army puts the pennies money toward the Christmas hamper program it runs in partnership with the Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank. If any money is left after Christmas, it goes into the emergency food hampers the organization hands out throughout the year.

The Christmas hampers include all the fixings a family could hope to have on Christmas Day, said envoy Dawne Anderson.

Donations to the Pennies for Presents campaign can be made until Dec. 21 at the News Bulletin office at 777 Poplar St., or one of the community drop-off locations: InPrint downtown, John’s Bedroom Barn, Northridge Fitness, Canadian Tire, Sink or Swim Scuba, La-Z-Boy, Royal LePage at Brooks Landing, Coast Realty downtown, the ICBC Driver Licensing Office on Metral Drive, Quality Foods in University Village and Cline Medical Centre.

For more information, please call 250-734-4626 or visit to upload photos or share stories about your fundraising efforts.

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