When Valley resident Tamara Meggitt heard that Santa’s Workshop will not be operational due to the pandemic this year, she knew there was an opportunity to step up.
Meggitt, along with her friends Shellie Yates Smyrichinsky and Deb Muckle created Island Heart of Hope, an organization that began in August 2017 to help people in the community through various projects (Meggitt was one of the organizers of the Loonies For Loggers project last year).
This year, the group wants to assist to fill in the gap for children and teens ages 0 to 17 within the Comox Valley with new gifts donated by the community for the holiday season through CV Christmas for Kids.
Last year, Santa’s Workshop assisted in finding gifts for around 270 families and around 700 children, says Meggitt. Within 48 hours of getting the registration system online, she explains there more than 200 people registered. She anticipates there may be more than 1,000 registrants by December.
“COVID-19 is definitely a huge factor this year. There was also the logging strike which ended in February, and everything shut down in March – that’s really hard for families, especially those where (one parent) lost their job and then another.”
The vision behind CV Christmas for Kids is similar to Santa’s Workshop, however, due to the pandemic, the co-ordinators are asking that all donated gifts be new to lower exposure risks.
The group has secured a storage place, and a variety of drop-off locations around the Comox Valley will soon be posted on their website, cvchristmasforkids.com. Meggitt is encouraging community members to work within their ‘bubble.’
“If everyone works with their group, people can put some money into a kitty and then one person can go do the shopping and that same person can do the drop-off. We can make this happen.”
In addition to gifts (Meggitt will have an age-appropriate list of suggested gift ideas on the website), the organization is also seeking gift cards from local stores (of $25) within the Comox Valley for donation.
“We want to let people know that Christmas isn’t cancelled. Our hope is also to raise awareness about Santa’s Workshop and the work they do as well. We don’t want to replace what they do, but fill the gap.”
The group is also looking for volunteer drivers. They will be delivering gifts to homes in the Valley between Dec. 20 and 22 with contactless drop-off. In order to promote social distancing, drivers will be by themselves in the vehicle and will deliver around 10 gifts each.
Gifts are being collected, along with registrations, through their website until Dec. 5. On Dec. 12 and 13, Island Hearts of Hope is organizing a toy drive (location to be determined) where they will put out a call for specific items to be dropped off. Cash donations are also being accepted via e-transfer.
“This year with people keeping to their bubble Thanksgiving dinners will be smaller and there will be less large groups. We’re encouraging people instead of spending lots of money on that big dinner, take some of that money and put it towards a toy.”
For more information, visit Island Hearts of Hope on Facebook or CVChristmasforKids.com.