Despite an unconventional holiday season, the 73rd annual Santa Fund turned out to be one of its most successful years to date.
“The spirit of the Santa Fund was there in spades this year,” said Scott Clark, chair of the Santa Fund.
Clark says prior to Christmas, the Santa Fund had received upwards of $180,000 in donations. Its initial goal for the year was $140,000. The final totals are still being tallied.
Normally, volunteers in the community would congregate at the Chippewa Barracks to pack and distribute the holiday hampers that go to families in need.
This year, under COVID-19 restrictions, volunteers had to be pre-screened with a cap of 50 people allowed to help out.
Half of those volunteers were army reserves from the Algonquin Regiment. The rest were members from organizations that had in-house COVID screening to ensure everyone involved with the packing was safe.
“I think all of our volunteers and some of the new people who helped us, really stepped up with logistics and organization. They really made it seamless,” Clark commented.
In total, about 600 families received holiday hampers with toys and food items. Beyond the roughly-400 families that registered for the Santa Fund, Clark says donations were also made to local food banks and warming shelters.
“Nothing goes to waste in any way, shape or form,” Clark noted.
And there was no shortage of community support for the Santa Fund this year.
Clark says while the volunteers were packing the hampers for delivery at Memorial Gardens, propane patio heaters were set up to keep people warm. When the propane ran out, a local business loaned an industrial heater for the effort.
“It can be very emotional and overwhelming to see the pure generosity,” Clark explained. “They’re not looking for anything in return. It was just unconditional support.”
Clark has served as either chair or co-chair for the Santa Fund for the past 20 years. This year, however, was his last.
“I feel incredibly privileged that I was asked to co-chair the Santa Fund. It’s a tradition that’s embedded within our community,” he reflected. “I think it’s important for the younger generation to take the reins of this great tradition.”
Clark says while this year was a success, he hopes to be able to open the tradition back up to the community next year should the pandemic allow it.