N.B. organizations still fundraising for holidays despite challenges

·3 min read

The pandemic is forcing charitable organizations to find new ways to fundraise for the holidays, bringing a challenging year to an end in New Brunswick.

It's the 25th year for the Lions Club annual food and toy drive in New Maryland, about 10 minutes south of Fredericton.

Any other year, volunteers would spend three consecutive nights parading through the village with Santa Claus collecting donations from residents. The donations would later be distributed to families in the area.

The fundraiser is a holiday favourite during the leadup to Christmas. It was viewed as the kickoff to the festive season.

But, because of the pandemic, there's no parading this year.

Instead, organizers spent months finding ways to make the fundraiser work within the pandemic guidelines.

Alex Scholten, one of the organizers of the fundraiser, said the event is too important to the community to cancel.

Gary Moore/CBC
Gary Moore/CBC

"We knew that the need was going to be particularly acute this year," Scholten said, adding that the committee started having meetings about the fundraiser back in the spring.

Last year, the fundraiser raised enough to provide 233 families with food hampers in the community. Enough toys were received to donate some to organizations outside of the community.

Instead of having a parade through the village, the organizers set up a no-contact drive-thru for people to donate to the cause.

Scholten said he was concerned that it wouldn't have the same response, but after a few hours on Saturday he was pleased with the efforts from the community.

"We know that COVID has had a big impact on people's lives, their employment, and it's really heartwarming to see the donations still coming in."

Gary Moore/CBC
Gary Moore/CBC

There are still two more opportunities for the community to drop off donations through the no-contact setup before the food and toys are distributed on Dec. 12 — also in a drive-thru manner to abide by the pandemic guidelines.

Fundraiser challenges

The Salvation Army in Fredericton is also working through changes to its annual fundraisers this season.

The organization is working with fewer volunteers and locations for its kettle campaign because of restrictions.

In a typical year, there would be 400 people volunteering, but right now there are only 175 volunteers helping out.

The campaign is only in eight locations so far this year in the city, but once the Fredericton region goes back to the yellow phase, Maj. Dan Dearing said they will have 15 locations.

Dearing said it's been challenging, but the generosity from the community is still there.

Submitted/Dan Dearing
Submitted/Dan Dearing

"We have to respect our government protocols," Dearing said. "We have a responsibility to do that in the context of still raising funds to meet the needs of people."

Another popular fundraiser for the Salvation Army is the Santa Shuffle five-kilometre run. It is normally held on the first Saturday of December.

Last year, 260 people signed up for the event in Fredericton and raised over $12,000.

Like many road races this year, the event has gone virtual. Runners can sign up and complete the run between Dec. 5-12.

Between the campaigns and efforts from community groups, the Salvation Army in Fredericton is hoping to fundraise $150,000 this year. That is the same as last year's goal.