Santa Claus Fund kicks off another season of giving

·3 min read

The Medicine Hat News Santa Claus Fund, Scotiabank and Canadian Tire have launched another season of Christmas fundraising in the community.

Jodi and Robert Harvey, who own Medicine Hat Canadian Tire, kicked off fundraising by donating $5,000 to the Santa Claus Fund through Scotiabank, one third the total amount of $15,000 that Scotiabank will match as part of its donation matching program.

Scotiabank branch manager Nicole Pituley got involved with the SCF about three years ago as a volunteer.

“I saw where we could work together because Scotiabank has a matching program, so if we volunteer at a charity, we can match up to $15,000,” said Pituley. “The Santa Claus Fund was it for me and we’ve been involved ever since, doing what we can to ensure we can match donations.”

Previously, the SCF hosted the Spirit of Giving Gala, which both Scotiabank and Canadian Tire were involved in. When COVID hit, they had to pivot and make new plans for fundraising without hosting a large-scale event.

“We set up toy bins here (on Carry Drive), at our downtown location and our Scotia wealth office, as well as at the Santa Claus Fund. Any toy donations or cash donations that go into those bins, we will match,” said Pituley.

“I love the Gala, but last year was quite heartwarming because I got to stop and thank everybody who came in to donate. There was one lady that came in said to me, ‘Do you know why I do this? I lost my two children when they were very young so I bring a toy to the Santa Claus Fund every year for them.’ She came back twice after that, it was so sweet.”

The Harveys acted as the primary sponsor for the Christmas tree auction at the Spirit of Giving Gala and continue to help Deanna Doerkson, Santa Claus Fund executive director, by selling toys at cost. Canadian Tire also collects toy donations.

“Mountain of Toys is a program we have every year where customers can donate toys,” said Robert. “They can purchase them at our store or they can purchase them somewhere else, and then they leave them in bins at the store and they’re collected and handed out.”

Jodi says their staff love playing a role.

“They aren’t always the one who gets to hand the toy right over to the volunteers and they certainly don’t deal with the families,” Jodi said. “But they all feel part of this community event.”

The Medicine Hat News Santa Claus Fund was established in 1986, providing Christmas to low-income families in the region for more than three decades now.

“We do that by providing a grocery voucher for families to purchase a Christmas meal and then toys for their children,” said Doerksen. “In 2020 we served 694 families with 1,441 children; the need was substantial in our community this year. All the dollars and gifts that we provide to these families are donated by our community.”

Hatters could begin donating to the charity on Friday, and can participate by donating new toys to Canadian Tire or in any of the Scotiabank or Santa Claus Fund bins. Cash donations can also be made inside the bank, where tellers will be available to help. Scotiabank will match all donations, including the cost of donated toys, up to $15,000.

LAUREN THOMSON, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News

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