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Toy drives scramble to meet demand as more families in Ontario struggle to afford Christmas

Most toy drives in Ontario will be getting ready to do their final push for donations over the next few days, and it’s a push they say is desperately needed.

With so many families struggling, toy drives throughout Ontario are seeing an increase in the number of families needing help with the holiday season and some are expierencing a drop in donations.

“I think it’s mostly because a lot of families think they can do it, and they think the cheque is coming in, and they think something’s going to happen, and it doesn’t. So they don’t ask until the very last minute for help, and then all of a sudden they’re scrambling,” says Christmas for Kids president Myrlene Boken.

Boken, whose charity helps families living in Innisfil, Ont., says they are hearing from more families in general needing help this holiday season and hearing from more people at the last minute.

Five years ago, the group had 253 families by Dec. 9 in need of Christmas presents, but Boken says they had 654 families by the same time this year, with more requests still coming in.

While the need is higher, the number of toy and financial donations are not.

“We certainly don’t have as many toys and things as we have in the past. However, we’re going to make do, and we’re going to make it work,” Boken says.

“It’s definitely more of a challenge. It’s taking us longer to do the hampers than in other years.”

The organization tries to give each kid at least five presents, one the child has specifically requested and then a few smaller ones. Boken says that given the decrease in donations, that may not be fully possible this year.

She notes that they will still ensure every kid in need has a present under the tree.

“For a lot of our children, this is it. This is all they’ll be getting,” Boken notes.

The struggles Christmas for Kids is experiencing are not unique.

In an emailed statement, Glenn van Gulik, divisional secretary for public relations with the Salvation Army Ontario, says that more individuals and families are struggling due to the escalating pace of inflation.

“The Salvation Army is seeing an increase in requests for toys this Christmas season. We encourage everyone to support our neighbours in need, and with Christmas on the horizon, there’s no better moment to ignite a powerful wave of joy, kindness, and compassion through your generous giving,” he says.

The Salvation Army’s Guelph branch sent out a statement saying it was 200 toy hampers short of what it needed based on families in need.

With increased demand for help, Boken says it’s also hard for families to give more this year.

“There’s nothing we can do about it. Everybody’s struggling, and everybody is going to be experiencing a little bit less this year, and our clients will be as well,” she says.

“People just don’t have a lot of disposable cash right now, no matter who you are.”

She says even a small cash donation can help.

But not every toy drive Global News spoke with is struggling.

In an emailed statement, Greg Sharp, food and toy drive lead with the County of Simcoe Paramedic Services says they have been overwhelmed by the response.

“With all the challenges facing our communities, I could never have imagined that this, our 21st Annual County of Simcoe Paramedic Services Food and Toy Drive, would be one of our most impactful. Our motto, ‘give a little, help a lot’ has really resonated with people, as we have experienced a resurgence in donations across all areas.”

Most toy drives throughout the province are still running throughout the weekend. People wanting to help can contact their local toy drive for information.

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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