Community collects presents for the less fortunate

Brittany Brooks/ Brock Press

Brittany Brooks/ Brock Press

The City of St Catharine’s is continuing its legacy of charity and holiday spirit by, once again, hosting the annual Tree of Little Angels fundraiser.

Running from Nov. 22 until Dec. 13, this fundraiser, which is held through both the St Catharines and Thorold Community Care, is seeking to change how we think about the holidays, and more specifically, how we view those less fortunate.

This marks the 16 time that the city has hosted the charity event during the holidays in an attempt to ensure that children from all socio-economic backgrounds get to enjoy gifts on Christmas.

The Tree of Little Angels charity web site states on its event page that, during the holidays; “For most little boys and girls, now is the time of year for dreaming about the surprises they might find under their tree on Christmas morning. For parents in tight financial situations, it’s the time of year they wish they could make all their children’s holiday dreams come true. You can help spread holiday cheer to all families in the Garden City with new, unwrapped toys for the City of St. Catharines 16th annual Tree of Little Angels campaign”.

The City has set up multiple drop -off points for the fundraiser including City Hall, the St Catharines Museum, the St Catharine’s Kiwanis Aquatic Centre and the Welland Canals Centre just to name few locations.

At each location, there is a tree with several names on it. Though the names are fictitious, each of these profiles lists the correct age and gender of a child in need.

People who want to donate a present can simply take a “Little Angel” off a tree, go out and buy a gift, and then return the present with the attached “Angel” to the trees location.

In a press release, Lori Mambella, the Recreation and Community Services program supervisor for the event stated that “This is a great way for the people of St. Catharines to spread the holiday spirit

“The Tree of Little Angels is something our residents always get behind and their generosity is so inspiring. This year we have more locations available to make it easier to help those in the community who need it.”

Last year, people from all across St Catharine’s  came together and donated approximately 500 toys to Community Care who distributed the toys to approximately 3000 families in need throughout the local area.

Community Care also additionally provided each of these families with their own holiday dinner, and provided these families with a much needed support network in the ensuring months.

Patrick Carter, the Carousel Harbor Coordinator for the city of St Catharine’s, in an interview with the press stated that, “The Tree of Little Angels is important in two ways: One, it helps ensure that every boy and girl in St. Catharines has something special to unwrap during the holiday season. Secondly it helps teach residents of all ages about the importance of charity in building a strong community”.

When asked about the city’s plans for the future of the fundraiser, Carter commented that, “The City’s recreation and community services staff enjoy organizing this event every year, knowing the joy that it brings into the hearts of the City’s youngest residents. So as long as there is a need we plan to continue to do it”.

Carter also remarked about the 2013 “Tree of Little Angels” fundraiser, specifically commenting that “Last year the Tree of Little Angels collected nearly 500 toys. This year we have collected over 200 toys and we’re just past the half-way point of the campaign, putting us on track for a great year.”

Carter closed by discussing the communities involvement in the event both currently and in the past.

“The community has always been incredibly supportive of this event. So much so that this year, we’ve added two new locations. Now residents stopping into City Hall and the St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre can pick up an angel and drop off a toy there” said Carter.

Koby Vanyo, Community Relations Supervisor, a colleague of Carter also commented on the importance of the “Tree of Little Angels” as a tool for community and family building.

“Several of the members from our Older Adult Centre’s use this opportunity to teach their grandchildren the importance of giving and giving back to the community,” says Koby Vanyo Community Relations Supervisor.

With another successful year ahead, and community spirits at  an all-time high, it would seem that the “Tree of Little Angels” campaign will continue to flourish in the upcoming years.

The Tree of Little Angels locations are

City Hall, 50 Church St.

Dunlop Drive Centre for Older Adults, 80 Dunlop Dr.

Port Dalhousie Centre for Older Adults, 19 Brock St.

Port Weller Community Centre, 1 Bogart St.

Recreation and Community Services Administration Office, 320 Geneva St.

Russell Avenue Community Centre, 108 Russell Ave.

Seymour-Hannah Sports and Entertainment Centre, 240 St. Paul St. W.

St. Catharines Kiwanis Aquatics Centre, 425 Carlton St.

St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre, 1932 Welland Canal Pkwy.

West St. Catharines Centre for Older Adults, 117 Chetwood Ave.

Remember, donations are being accepted until Dec. 13. So get out and make a child’s Christmas

The importance of presents during the holidays

s a child, it seems funny how small the world is. Getting made fun of on the school yard, getting bullied or picked on can seem like the end of life as we know it.

At those moments I remember wishing nothing more than to be normal, to feel like everyone else. Looking back, it seems so trivial now but at the time, I remember the feeling burning with in me. Questions like “Why do the other kids have more than me, and why do they get nice toys on Christmas?” always seemed to bug me.

Now some people say that giving presents on the holidays is a waste as it does not directly address the problem the children often face such as poverty and hunger. However, that could not be further from the truth.

What makes giving a child a present so powerful is not in the act of giving or receiving the toy; instead it is in the empowering of the child for even a moment, to just be like everyone else. To be normal, to know that you as a person are worth more than the life you were given, and that anything is possible.

What people often forget is that even the poor, or those who have little, have dreams and ambitions, hopes and fears; and everybody, no matter how rich or poor deserves a break from reality, even if it’s just for a second in the form of a present.

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