For the second year in a row, the South Cariboo Elizabeth Fry Society (SCEFS) is making Christmas a little bit merrier for some children and seniors in the area via their “Giving Tree”, which has been set up in Home Hardware in Ashcroft.
The tree combines two programs: “Toys for Joys”, which collects gifts for children, and “Santa for Seniors”, where people can purchase gifts for seniors. Toys for Joys has been running in Ashcroft since 2009, and usually involved people getting a hot breakfast in exchange for dropping off a toy, but the program had to change in 2020 due to COVID.
In 2021 it ran in conjunction with Santa for Seniors. Instead of simply purchasing items at random, donors could take a tag off the tree at Home Hardware, which listed specific items people had asked for. SCEFS executive director Trish Schachtel explained that the information on each tag was geared to a different person.
“One tag might say it’s for an 85-year-old woman who loves crossword puzzles and needs some size 7 slippers,” she said. “People grab a tag, shop for what’s on it, then bring the unwrapped items to the E. Fry office, where we’ll match the gifts with the person.”
The toy drives in the past were always successful, bringing in hundreds of toys and more than $1,250 in cash donations, but kids in some age groups invariably got missed. Last year, when SCEFS unveiled the Giving Tree, the results were fantastic.
“It was a huge success, judging by the comments from recipients and from donors,” said Schachtel. “People liked that they could shop specifically for someone, because it felt more personal. And people were very generous: they would get everything that was on the tag.
“People felt more attached with Santa for Seniors, knowing they were buying for someone specific, and asked if we could do the same thing for kids as for seniors. If you’re buying something specific for a five-year-old girl you’re more engaged with that than just buying a toy. People like the personalization of knowing a five-year-old will wake up on Christmas morning and get something they really wanted. I think we’re going to continue doing it this way moving forward.”
The Giving Tree will be at Home Hardware until Dec. 14, and Schachtel said they are aiming to have all the gifts collected by that date. “That gives us some time to supplement, if tags haven’t been picked up, and follow-up with people.”
People can make a cash donation if they would prefer, which would help SCEFS purchase any gifts that are missing. “You can specify where you would like the donation to go, either for seniors or for kids.”
Gifts and cash donations can be dropped at the E. Fry office, downstairs at 601 Bancroft Street, Ashcroft any weekday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Gifts will be sorted at the SCEFS office and put into bags, and Schachtel explained that if they are unwrapped they can be checked to make sure they’re suitable: “Some people might be allergic to peanuts, for example.” The Santa for Seniors gifts will be delivered to the recipients, while the Toys for Joys items can be picked up at the SCEFS office; recipients will be contacted when the gifts are ready.
“Grab a tag off the tree and buy a present for someone,” said Schachtel. “Some instant hot chocolate, a fuzzy blanket, and some slippers will make someone feel better.”