Northumberland News – The Independent

Dec 20, 2010

John Campbell

CAMPBELLFORD – It’s a good thing Santa outsources some of his work.

Otherwise, his elves would collapse from exhaustion trying to keep millions of children happy.

In this part of the world, Santa can thank the Campbellford-Seymour Firefighters Association and Community Living Campbellford/Brighton for providing a much-needed helping hand.


The two organizations decided to combine forces this Christmas and conduct one toy and food drive together rather than proceed on their own, as in years past. The partnership paid off handsomely, with the result on display Monday night in the fire hall, where six tables were laden with toys, games, dolls, action figures, books and many other wonderful gifts, with more of the same on the floor.

“It’s set up like a little department store,” Fire Chief Tim Blake said. And there shopping for presents were teachers from the three elementary schools in Campbellford – Hillcrest, Kent and St. Mary’s – on behalf of low-income families who couldn’t afford such gifts for their children.

With lists in hand of what the students hoped to get this Christmas, the teachers filled boxes with presents that will be distributed next week.

“I’m just overwhelmed by the amount of stuff,” said Bev Nicholas, a Grade 1 teacher at Hillcrest, who was there with educational assistant Kim Blake to collect toys for 12 families with students at their school. Allison Edwards and Peggy O’Connor were doing the same for St. Mary’s, acting as a surrogate Santa for 13 families with 22 children.

“This is a fantastic opportunity,” Ms. Edwards said. “It’s really nice to see the community really contributing.”

“We’ve got lots of need in our school and lots of need in the community,” said Patrick Muldoon, a Grade 4/5 teacher at Kent, as he and fellow teachers Betsy Thompson and Samantha Mills were busy gathering up toys for 17 children.

“It’s amazing that the community comes out with this much stuff,” he said. “This works out really well for us.

Mr. Muldoon and Ms. Edwards said the collaborative effort by the firefighters and Community Living will free up funds the schools have collected for other purposes. At St. Mary’s, it’s money for food hampers; at Kent, it’s for groceries as well but also coats, boots and other apparel for families “that didn’t really want toys, they wanted to focus more on the clothes,” Mr. Muldoon said. Nine children will be helped this way.

Mr. Muldoon said Kent raised about $9,000 in one week so that it could “go out and spoil the kids at Christmas” who otherwise would receive little.

Having some of that responsibility shared will enable Kent to keep some of the money in an accessibility fund it uses throughout the year, he said, for families who need help to buy school supplies, send a child on school trips or deal with an emergency. Chief Blake said he got in touch with Community Living executive director Nancy Brown to see if her agency would be interested in working together to collect food and toys this season.

“We’ve been doing it for 10 years but we weren’t doing it very well,” he said. By pooling resources, “the kids are going to reap the benefits of it.”

“It’s been a huge success,” said Kari Crate, outcome support facilitator with Community Living. “I know we’ve definitely had more toys collected this year … There will be lots of kids with lots of gifts that they will be excited about.”

All the toys and other goodies that remained after the teachers completed their shopping were delivered to the Salvation Army where they will be distributed more widely than just Campbellford and surrounding area.

“I know the Salvation Army is going to be very happy with what they’re getting this year,” Chief Blake said.

He heaped praise on the many partners who made the Christmas Wish Toy and Food Drive such a huge success: Canadian Tire, Rona Cashway, Giant Tiger, the LCBO, Community Resource Centre, Curves for Women, Home Hardware, Sharpe’s Food Market, Bill’s No Frills, Stedmans, Liquidation World, Campbellford Office Supplies, Ontario Power Generation, Campbellford Veterinary Services, Campbellford District High School, Duke’s Bait Shop and Wayne Morrison Construction. Mr. Morrison, as he did last year, donated $100, a sum matched by the firefighters association, to be divided among the three schools for the purchase of food or particular gifts.

Chief Blake said the outstanding support shown the combined toy and food drive was another example of local residents willing to go to bat for each other in a time of need.

“It just snowballed and, hopefully, it keeps going,” he said, looking ahead to next year.

“It’s unbelievable the generosity,” said Ms. Crate, who was “blown away by the amount and the quality of toys” that were donated.

“They’re really cool gifts.”