Police lights were flashing Saturday afternoon in the Enmax Centre parking lot, but there was no foul play occurring.
Instead, Saturday’s setup was the site of the Lethbridge Police Service-hosted first Charity Checkstop.
The four-hour event collected unwrapped toys and monetary donations for the Lethbridge Family Services Angel Tree Christmas Campaign and non-perishable food items for the Lethbridge Food Bank to help those in need over the holiday season following a 2020 ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re collecting donations for Family Services as well as the Lethbridge Food Bank and just trying to help out as much as we can. It’s been great so far,” said event organizer LPS Const. Stewart Kambeitz.
Four hours after the first vehicles pulled up to the flashing lights, the parade of motorists did their part to make sure some families in need have a good Christmas.
The Checkstop raised more than $8,217 in monetary donations as well as 1,357 unwrapped toys and other items for the Angel Tree campaign and 1,085 kilograms (2,394 pounds) of non-perishable items for the Lethbridge Food Bank, valued at more than $6,200.
The fundraiser looked promising right from the get-go.
Less than 30 minutes into Saturday’s charity, one of the vans onsite was almost overflowing with toys and gift packages.
For Kambeitz, that was a nice problem to have.
“The donations have been overwhelming already. It’s incredible,” he said. “There is a constant flow of cars coming through donating multiple items and it’s so generous. Anyone who can give is giving tremendously. We’re just trying to find out what to do with all of them. We didn’t expect this many. It’s a great turnout.”
The Angel Tree campaign expects to provide gift bundles for 3,000 children in need this Christmas, each gift bundle with something on their wish list.
“In the time we’re in right now the need is even greater. We don’t want anybody to go without,” said Kambeitz.
Saturday’s response exceeded expectations, said Lethbridge Food Bank executive director Maral Kiani Tari.
“It was incredible,” she said. “It was so overwhelming to see the support pouring in. It was definitely not what we expected. It was incredible to see the community coming together and supporting us, especially this year. It was a safe event and was amazing to see that people are still willing to safely support our agencies and give back to the community.”
Kiani Tari noted the unique layout of the fundraiser.
“Checkstops are not something you normally enjoy, but this one was a really exciting and fun checkstop for individuals to go through. As an agency I was blown away by the level of support from the community. It was amazing to see people stepping up and helping us and they’ve always done that. The Lethbridge community is incredible on how they give back.”
Though Saturday’s checkstop was of the fundraising variety, the real ones will once again be rolling out with another holiday season around the corner.
As they do every year, Kambeitz stressed the importance of holiday celebrators finding a safe way to get around instead of getting behind the wheel.
“It goes without saying,” he said. “The impact it can have on a family is devastating. The other affects are devastating and we want to stress that every year and this year is no different than any other.”
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Dale Woodard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lethbridge Herald