A basket of goodies for all

Getting the whole community involved.

That’s been the goal of a local community centre over the last 20 years of bringing a little Christmas cheer to people in need.

The West Hill Community Centre enlists sponsors for the 500 plus families in their program and whoever is not sponsored, they take on. All families are guaranteed three weeks of groceries for the Christmas season.

“For the holiday hampers, individual businesses will sponsor families,” said Kathleen Scott, who has been coordinator of the program for 15 years.

“Some schools take on 10 families, some 15, churches take on 25, private businesses take on one, and so it just depends.”

The program is essentially a registration process that sees the centre compile a database and screen individual families. After screening, sponsors choose families to assist.

“We do have an area we service; east of Markham road to the Pickering town line, south to the lake and up to the 401,” she said.

West Hill community centre receives food from places like the church, the schools, the supermarket, private individuals, businesses and the Boy Scouts.

“[The Boy Scouts] do an annual food drive and they usually collect over 7,000 pounds of food for the Christmas program,” Scott said. “A few weeks before they would distribute fliers throughout the community and then they go back on a specific date to pick up.”

Then the food is sorted and some it is given to the community centre’s own food bank, which goes towards the families who have not been sponsored. They also help with the toys and possible gift certificates.

The family is assured one hamper, but Scott explains, “it also depends on what the individual wants to do with that family.”

“They might give them X amount of gift certificates to provide them with the grocery items, they will buy the toys for the family and they can contact the family if they want to,” she said.

That family can also make special requests for the children. However, they are not allowed to request exorbitant or private items.

“It’s more like if they need a winter coat or boots or a little toy but nothing overly expensive,” Scott said. “Also with a gift certificate, it’s easier to tote around rather than lugging around boxes and boxes because most sponsors deliver to the home.”

“We can never have enough sponsors with the number of families we have, but it gets better because word gets around because a sponsor might tell somebody else.”

For this Christmas, the community centre has enlisted the help of 100 sponsors to make sure that these families find something in their stocking.