Recently I met with Diane Marshall convener for Christmas Cheer another organization in Sault Ste. Marie operated entirely by volunteers.
Thanks to their efforts with tremendous support from the community they provide Christmas baskets for between 1600-1800 needy families from Batchawana to Bruce Mines who otherwise would have little to cheer about during the Christmas season.
Diane Marshall, convener, and a core group of another 12 volunteers do an amazing job of organizing all the activities of Christmas Cheer.
With the support from United Way and the funds raised through the Sault Star’s Santa Claus Fund Christmas Cheer provides:
· Food Baskets (Staples, Fresh Food, and Frozen Turkeys or Chickens)
· Children’s (18 or less) Toys/Gifts
· Books/Games and Puzzles
· Knitted items (scarves, mitts, toques that were knitted and donated by the knitters at the Seniors Centre and other generous community knitters)
· Sports items (hockey sticks/skates)
Imagine the organizing effort involved with the receipt and distribution of these items.
Diane explained their first issue is locating a space where they can receive, package and distribute the parcels. The space location will be solved with the United Way plans for a Food Centre.
Each year on Turkey Day, around December 20th, the parcels are delivered to fifty (50) sub depots where the designated families can pick up the parcels.
Involved with the enormous distribution exercise are numerous volunteers, fireman, and military personnel, office staff, casino workers to mention a few. The sub depots are all staffed by volunteers some who are members of the sub depot location (eg: Churches).
Diane explained that they have organized their group into various departments such as
· Receiving ,
· Used Toys, Dolls, Puzzles/Games, Library (children’s books),
· Arts / Crafts,
· Administration and Packaging.
Diane especially mentioned Jill Raycroft who does outstanding work in organizing the packing all the goods for delivery. Prior to packing all items are inspected, cleaned, and repaired with a final inspection before leaving the premises.
Diane a Sault Ste Marie native had a rewarding career with the Algoma District School Board both as a teacher and an administrator. She taught Special Education and developed a program for Gifted Education.
In addition to the extraordinary work she does with Christmas Cheer, two or three times per week Diane helps feed the residents at the F J Davey Home. In her spare time as a Rotarian, she has been involved with Polio Immunization in India and Water Filtration in Honduras.
Diane indicated that her outlook on volunteering is a desire to give something back to the community. This outlook was fostered from her parents and grandmothers as well as her involvement as a youth member of the Junior Red Cross, and raising funds in Sunday school.
Christmas Cheer starts their annual campaign for donations and volunteers by means of a press release sent out to all media around November 1st each year. A telephone number to call is made available from Nov 1st to early December for self-nominated needy families or individuals to indicate their desire for support at the Christmas Season.
The Christmas Cheer organizers, supporters, and volunteers involved with the program deserve special recognition within our community. Their efforts certainly epitomize the real meaning of Christmas.