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Santa’s Cause for Kids has record-setting toy collection  

by Sylene Argent

Thanks to the generosity from the community – and commitment from local businesses – the 21st annual Santa’s Cause for Kids program had a record-setting toy collection this year.

The toy drive’s organizers and volunteers were overwhelmed with the number of toys, goods, and games they were able to pick-up at the many drop-off depots located throughout the municipality last Friday, ahead of Christmas Eve.

Through this program, area residents and local shoppers are able to donate a new, unwrapped gift at several local businesses, and place it in a collection depot for pick-up.

Local firefighters with Essex Fire & Rescue and OPP officers annually host the initiative.

Last Friday morning, volunteers went from one drop-off depot to the next to pick-up the new, unwrapped gifts that local residents and shoppers donated towards the Santa’s Cause for Kids initiative. The donations ensure area youths of families experiencing economic hardships have a bright and merry Christmas morning.

The donated items will be forwarded to the Essex Salvation Army, the Essex Area Food Bank, the St. Vincent de Paul chapters in Harrow and McGregor, and Zeta Kappa Sorority for its Santa’s Sack program. These organizations will ensure the collected items are provided to local families in need.

Santa’s Cause for Kids Founder and Organizer, Essex (M) OPP Constable Joe Meloche, started the initiative over two-decades ago, after noticing there was a need to fill in the community. Every year he is overwhelmed and grateful with the support shown to the program.

This year, he was especially impressed with the number of items donated.

When picking up a large donation from Canadian Tire, Leslie Ribchester, Human Resources Coordinator, said this year’s collection was the largest to date. Not only were customers generous in buying items to donate at their store, but brought in items to donate that were purchased elsewhere.

Some of the drop-off location included Dollar Tree, Ken Knapp Ford, the Harrow Dollar Discount, Atlas Tube, Ken Lapain & Sons, Viscount Estates, Peavey Mart, Delta Power Equipment, Casnadian Tire, the Essex Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion (Branch 201) and its Ladies’ Auxiliary, and Watson & Slade.

In addition to collecting toys for the program, Red Apple also donated funds. Recently, the local business hosted a ‘Fill a Sleigh’ event and committed 10 percent of its proceeds raised, during the event, to the cause.

Countryside Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram also provided a check to support the program, and Essex Home Furnishings forwarded several gift cards. Once Upon a Time Child Care Centre also hosted its own collection, providing toys and non-perishable food items, which firefighters dropped-off at the Essex Area Food Bank.

First-time donator, Valente Development Corporation, donated a truck-load of toys and $4000 worth of gift cards for the older youths. It kicked-off its Christmas-themed campaign this year with $20,000 of its own money, and raised funds through pledges to further its efforts.

The Essex Santa’s Cause for Kinds program was one of five initiatives in as many communities Valente supported this year.

The 12-year-old and older age group is often the least thought-about when individuals are donating to the cause, so the gift cards will go a long way to ensuring area teenagers and older youths of families facing economic hardships receive something on Christmas morning. They will be able to use the gift card to purchase something they need or would like.

Meloche appreciates the support the toy drive continues to receive, and is looking forward to helping Santa deliver smiles on Christmas morning again in 2023.

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