With Christmas less than two weeks away, Lions Hall in Elmira was a beehive of activity as volunteers packed hampers for the Woolwich Community Services’ annual Goodwill program. With demand growing for support, they’re busier than ever.
Since the pandemic began, WCS has seen an increase in people accessing the agency’s service, including the Christmas hamper program.
“We’ve had, I would say, 15 more families than before the pandemic,” said Tina Reed, coordinator of community support at WCS. “We try really hard not to say no to anybody.”
Monday was the start of food hamper preparation, with Reed and the other volunteers on hand to pack and sort toys, food, and other donated items. Everything was being readied for pickup today (Thursday).
“Any toys that come in and whatnot just get saved for next year if they’re not used this year.”
WCS provided the community with options to donate with programs such as sponsor a family, wish trees and toy or food drives. Monetary donations were also raised for the Christmas Goodwill fund. Local community groups, such as the Elmira Kiwanis Club, held fundraisers to support the holiday hampers.
“Thank you to all the sponsors and all the businesses and service clubs and all the people that took to make it happen – all the sponsors and stores that were willing to put the wish trees in them for people to purchase gifts for the food hamper program,” said Reed.
Monday was a busy day for Reed and her team of volunteers as they organized and sorted through all the donations, being sure to fulfill every family’s wish list of items for the upcoming holidays. It was a large operation, with tables overflowing with toys, food, and other items.
“When it comes to the toys and everything, we actually don’t see it all until it’s at the hall – then it’s kind of all spread out.”
This week’s packing was the culmination of a process that began in November when families start applying for the Christmas Goodwill program. Reed noted it takes a variety of volunteers throughout the community to make it all happen.
“We also have a whole bunch of schools that have been doing collections as well. The fire department, a bunch of volunteers, drive around to a whole bunch of different schools and a couple businesses and pick everything up for us and bring it to the hall. It takes a lot of volunteers to pull this off,” she said.
Local families may apply later than the November 30 deadline if they are in need and they try to make sure every family that applies has toys for children and food for Christmas dinner.