Volunteering at Santa Claus Fund – Toronto Star
100% of your donation goes to purchasing the contents of the gift box
With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s easy to take for granted how fortunate some of us are. Volunteering to deliver presents for the Santa Claus fund gave me the opportunity to slow down and remember the importance of giving and helping others. I remember the joy of getting a brand new toy on Christmas day and to be able to give that to a child who may not otherwise receive a gift was an opportunity I wasn’t going to pass up.
The Santa Claus Fund organized by the Toronto Star aims to give a little bit of holiday cheer to underprivileged children. One point that I wanted to emphasize is that when you donate, 100% of the donation goes to purchasing the contents of the gift box (this includes a warm sweater, socks, mittens, hats, books, toys and candies). The Toronto Star generously covers all administrative costs.
Santa sets up distribution centers all over the GTA and volunteer elves assemble to help distribute. We headed to the firehall nice and early at 8:30am last Saturday to pick up the gift boxes. To make delivery a little easier, the presents are sorted by neighbourhoods. We quickly filled up the car with as many presents as we could. We ended up fitting about 20 presents into the car so that meant we had about 14 houses to visit (some families has multiple presents because they had multiple kids). It was a wonderful experience and I’d highly encourage participating or donating to the cause. I know I will definitely be signing up again next year!
If you’re interested in participating, here are a few things that I learned from my experience.
1. Write down the addresses of the homes BEFORE putting the presents into the car and make sure you put similar streets together. This will help you map out an efficient route and not have you doubling back to a neighbourhood because a box was hidden at the back of your trunk.
2. Dress warm and wear comfortable shoes. Since you select gifts in the same neighbourhood, they will often by separated by a block or two. Be prepared to walk a lot and wait outside of people’s houses. Since you will be carrying the presents, make sure you wear gloves. I unfortunately learned how quickly your fingers can get really cold.
3. Don’t get discouraged by the number of families that aren’t home. Many parents work shifts and may be at work or are sleeping. Many also have weekend jobs or may just be out running errands. Out of our 14 houses, we had about 6 that were undeliverable. These presents are returned back to the distribution centre where the families can go pick it up themselves or someone else might try to redeliver at a later date.
4. Make sure you aren’t in a rush. Packing up the car, visiting 14 houses, and returning back to the distribution centre took about 3 hours.
5. I opted to deliver to mostly houses but if you have young children with you (I highly encouraged teaching young ones the act of giving and helping others), it might be easier to pick recipients in the same apartment building. This will allow you to visit many families houses in a shorter period of time. You will also end up staying a little bit warmer.
6. Having a cell phone really helped as many of the presents also listed a contact number for the family. Some families may not open the door for a stranger, or you might not know the buzzer code to get into the apartment building. I found that it helped to give them a call to let them know that you were either waiting in the lobby, or that you were on your way.
7. Never judge a book by the cover. You may think that from looking at the outside of someone’s home, or from the neighbourhood that they live in, that they may not need any assistance but you never really know someone’s situation. Remember, you didn’t volunteer to judge. Santa picked them for a reason.
You can visit the Santa Claus Fund page on the Toronto Star if you would like some more information about this wonderful initiative.
My blog post was featured in the Toronto Star!