Some Calgary charities are seeing a significant drop in toy donations this year and they fear they won’t be able to meet the needs of the community.
The local Salvation Army branch and Calgary Women’s Center are experiencing an increase in calls from families wanting a Lego set, toy doll or gift card to leave under the tree for their children this Christmas.
“We don’t compete with other agencies that distribute Christmas toys in Calgary. Find one and donate a toy this year,” said Cliff Wiebe, executive director of community services for the Calgary branch of the Calgary Branch. ‘Salvation Army.
“So [kids] can go back to school after Christmas and say, ‘I got a great present too this year,’ and they can share.”
Wiebe says that before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Salvation Army’s toy campaign in Calgary received about 50,000 donated toys a year. But during the pandemic, donations have dropped by more than a third to around 15,000 toys. The organization expects the same number this year.
Wiebe said the Salvation Army plans to provide 3,000 baskets of toys to Calgarians over the holiday season.
Target the most needy families
With fewer donations, Wiebe said his organization had to change the way it selects families this year.
Rather than a citywide first-come, first-served basis, the organization is focused on the greater Forest Lawn area.
“If you look at the stats from Calgary, it has the lowest household income in our city, so our goal is also to get that into the hands of the families that need it the most,” Wiebe said.
Wiebe said the Salvation Army will also choose children from neighborhoods connected to its three different churches.
The Calgary Women’s Center is also inundated with requests for toys this year, and its registration process for families hasn’t even started yet.
“Just having people like, ‘Can we please be on the list? We need this Christmas,'” said Bo Masterson, executive director of the Women’s Center.
Masterson said that over the past year, the nonprofit has been inundated with calls from refugees and immigrants arriving from Ukraine, Afghanistan and South America in need of baskets. emergency food and personal care products.
Thus, the center plans to offer 30% more gifts this holiday season to children aged 0 to 18 and their educators. But that’s only if enough donations come in.
“It’s heartbreaking, I think, for our volunteers to have to say no or try to figure out where we’re going from here. So it’s been a really tough couple of months,” Masterson said.
Spread the message
Masterson said the Women’s Center will be issuing appeals on social media to try to drum up more support for toy donations.
“[We] I hope the public will understand this because this is a really, really important time for many, many people in our community,” Masterson said.
Wiebe said the Salvation Army is also considering different ways to publicize its need for toy donations. His registration is already closed, but if donations start to increase in December, he said the organization would accept more families to add to its list.
“The last thing we want to do is promise someone a toy, and we don’t have one,” Wiebe said.