Holiday Gift Drive focuses on urgently needed items for community members of all ages

·4 min read

This has been a challenging year for all of us and, for those who are having trouble making ends meet, the holiday season is another hurdle that needs to be overcome.

But, if you’re looking for ways to help, consider donating a gift card to Neighbourhood Network to help make the season merry for hundreds of people across northern York Region.

Neighbourhood Network has officially kicked off their 2020 Holiday Gift Drive. On now through December 18, the local volunteer organization is spearheading new ways to assist the clients of partner organizations – from Abuse Hurts and Big Brothers Big Sisters of York to Yellow Brick House and the York Region Food Network.

Instead of donating gifts, each partner organization has compiled a list of needs and these wish lists can often be filled through the donation of gift cards, as well as through the “adoption” of a family that could use a hand.

“We started really taking a serious look at this in July, just knowing that everything was so unpredictable,” says Neighbourhood Network Program Coordinator Tanya Dennis. “We didn’t want to set something up that we couldn’t follow through, so we did our initial set of communications with the partners we had helped in the past in July just to get the ball rolling and go over the whole process and things we needed to think about now because of COVID. The feedback from our partners was very consistent and gift cards are a huge request. With [COVID-19], these gift cards are even something that can be put in the mail and they can be wiped down, cleaned and disinfected easily.

“This year, everyone was anticipating the needs were going to be so much more, and they are. Unfortunately, another common thing is the needs tend to be a lot of necessities and not so much fun Christmas gifts anymore. It’s bed sheets and toothpaste, winter jackets and gift cards.”

Purchasing a gift card rather than going out to a store and picking out something you think a person might want to find under their tree this year might seem impersonal but for Neighbourhood Network’s perspective, it is the best way to support people in need in the communities they serve.

“It is also such a nice thing for the person in charge of buying gifts to be able to shop for all their loved ones,” says Ms. Dennis, noting that doing so is also in keeping with the principles behind the social media campaign they have been spearheading since the start of the global pandemic: #spreadjoynothgerms.

Mailing in a gift card, or even dropping one off at their Yonge Street office, is not the only way you can help Neighbourhood Network partner organizations meet their needs this holiday season. A number of groups are also looking for volunteers in a variety of capacities, and some have unique asks.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of York, for instance, is asking people to also consider giving “the gift of a match” by signing up for virtual mentoring programs benefiting local kids and teens.

DeafBlind Ontario Services, in addition to gift cards, could also benefit from the donation of sensory toys.

Organizations like Blue Door Shelters and Routes Connecting Communities, the Georgina-based organization serving all of York Region helping residents get to where they need to go, also highlight the need for gas cards for their clients.

A full list of participating organizations and their individual needs can be found at neighbourhoodnetwork.org/program/holiday-gift-drive – and Ms. Dennis asks the community to take a look soon so donations can get to those who need them as soon as possible.

“The earlier we get the gifts in the sooner we can get our families looked after,” she said, underscoring the deadline of December 18. “We always accept things and we will always make sure we find a good home for them, but that is our push – at least a week. We just want to make sure we can support everyone who is coming to us and, as of right now, we’re doing that. It is a success if we can say we helped all of the organizations who reached out to us in support. It is something that Magna employees are involved in as well – lots of divisions and groups at head office will support a family, too. It is a nice feeling of everyone coming together and I think during this holiday season that has been especially important.”

For more information on the drive, visit www.nnetwork.org or call 905-726-3737. Neighbourhood Network serves residents and community groups in Aurora, King, Newmarket, East Gwillimbury and Georgina.

Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran