The Toys for Joys campaign — which makes Christmas a little bit merrier for some children in the area — is returning for another year, but with a twist.
The program has been operating in Ashcroft since 2009, and is now run by the South Cariboo Elizabeth Fry Society (SCEFS). Usually people drop off new, unwrapped toys and get a sit-down or take-out breakfast, but this year the campaign will be operating the same way as the Santa for Seniors program, which SCEFS is also organizing this year.
“We’ll have a tree set up at Home Hardware in Ashcroft, with tags or paper bulbs on it, each with generic information about someone,” explains SCEFS executive director Trish Schachtel. “One might say it’s for an 85-year-old woman who loves crossword puzzles and needs some size 7 slippers. 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.”
She adds that the toy drives in the past were successful — the 2019 campaign collected more than 200 toys and $1,250 in cash donations — but kids in some age groups got missed. “It will be easier for someone to grab a tag and specifically shop for someone, as opposed to buying a Lego set and hoping it fits.”
This targeted approach for both children and seniors will mean that if anyone on the master list is missing gifts, items can be tracked down and purchased by SCEFS.
“We wanted to try to do some more specific shopping,” says Schachtel. “That was the request of people buying toys. They’d say ‘What do you need, what age range are you looking for?’”
She adds that by doing it this way, people are more connected with those they are buying for, even though they do not know who the person is.
“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.”
Schachtel adds that she would like to see the breakfast part of the program return at some point, so that people can get together at another Christmas event. “Along with the CP Holiday Train, it was a really fun start to the holiday season.”
The tree will be going up in Home Hardware by Nov. 22 (although you can start checking on Nov. 19), and Schachtel says they would love to have all the gifts in to the office by Dec. 8. “That gives us some time to supplement, if tags haven’t been picked up, and follow-up with people.”
She adds that 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 donations can be dropped at the E. Fry office at 601 Bancroft Street, Ashcroft any weekday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Schachtel says that SCEFS will be taking registrations for both Toys for Joys and Santa for Seniors during the upcoming Christmas hamper registrations. People can also call the E. Fry office at (250) 453-9656, and they will be asked for some basic information. Schachtel notes that people should only call to register someone in their own immediate household, and not do it on behalf of someone else. Both programs are for anyone living in Spences Bridge, Ashcroft, Cache Creek, Clinton, and the surrounding area, including First Nations communities.
Gifts will be sorted at the SCEFS office and put into bags, and Schachtel explains that if they’re 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 seniors’ centre (601 Bancroft Street, Ashcroft) between 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 15 and Dec, 17.
“Grab a tag off the tree and buy a present for someone,” says Schachtel.
“Some instant hot chocolate, a fuzzy blanket, and some slippers will make someone feel better.”