Santa Claus and Carolyn Iles, of the Great Nanaimo Toy Drive, show off a couple samples of 80 sweaters knitted for children by an anonymous donor. The 36th Great Nanaimo Toy Drive kicked off at Woodgrove Centre Thursday to make sure children from Nanaimo’s underprivileged families have presents Christmas morning. CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

Santa Claus and Carolyn Iles, of the Great Nanaimo Toy Drive, show off a couple samples of 80 sweaters knitted for children by an anonymous donor. The 36th Great Nanaimo Toy Drive kicked off at Woodgrove Centre Thursday to make sure children from Nanaimo’s underprivileged families have presents Christmas morning. CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

Great Nanaimo Toy Drive begins its campaign leading up to Christmas

The 36th Great Nanaimo Toy Drive will make sure children have presents on Christmas morning

Toys, cheques and knitted sweaters were among donations presented when the Great Nanaimo Toy Drive kicked off at Woodgrove Centre this week.

The event happened in front of Woodgrove’s big red donation toy chest Thursday when Coastal Community Credit Union, London Drugs, Royal Canadian Legion, Salvation Army, Nanaimo Fire Rescue, Altrusa International and others stepped up with donations and support. This year Telus joined the list of major sponsors with a $5,000 donation.

The annual Great Nanaimo Toy Drive is entering its 36th year of gathering Christmas gifts for children up to 16 years old, from Nanaimo’s families that might not otherwise have presents under their trees on Christmas morning.

“A lot of the young families are working two jobs, if they’re working at all, or maybe even three jobs and that goes to paying for their rent and food,” said Carolyn Iles, toy drive spokeswoman. “So, especially for those working poor, this is an opportunity for them to have a little bit under the tree.”

The toy drive will be collecting toys until Dec. 15. People can drop off donations of toys or cash at locations around Nanaimo, which include most shopping centres, Coastal Community Credit Union branches, Nanaimo Fire Rescue fire stations, Nanaimo Museum and other places.

“Most of the organizations or businesses are starting now, after Remembrance Day, to focus on Christmas,” Iles said.

While toys and donations are being collected, families in need can start registering for the toy drive. Families can register at Loaves and Fishes Community Food Bank depots from Monday, Nov. 19, to Dec. 1.

General registration will happen Dec. 3-7, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at University Village Shopping Centre near the Buy-Low Foods entrance.

There will be about 700 families registering for the toy drive this year, Iles said, but even people who don’t have a lot of money for donations find various other ways to help out.

“People try to find a way that they can help,” she said. “Even if they don’t have a lot of money, they have time – seniors for example – and so they use the skills that they have and the time that they have to help make the lives of children who are in need a little bit better.”

Organizations and businesses also contribute heavily to the annual drive. The annual Nanaimo Clippers hockey team Teddy Bear Toss event is a major contributor of toys to the drive.

The toy drive, which is completely volunteer driven, is also always looking for volunteers to help out with registration, shopping, sorting, setup and other tasks.

To learn more about the Great Nanaimo Toy Drive and upcoming events supporting it or to donate or become a volunteer, visit
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