Are you looking for a great way to give back or help out a local family in need this holiday season?
Santa’s Anonymous was inspired by a simple wish to see every child receive a new toy at Christmas. Throughout the years, volunteers from the community have worked together to make this wish come true, displaying the real spirit of Christmas and giving to others in need by offering a helping hand at Christmas time.
This year’s Santa Anonymous distribution day is Saturday, December 17th.
Chair of the Vermilion Santa’s Anonymous Clifford Rolheiser says the money coming in was less last year and that the demand for Santa’s Anonymous assistance had increased. We need more volunteers and donations now more than ever.
Pat Calyniuk has been Santa’s Anonymous Screener since 1993.
“I determine who is eligible. I have the list with everyone's name, and I coordinate where everything is going. How it works is people apply by filling out a form, they have a reference, they give us their information and request what they would like; for example a Timmy’s gift card or a new shirt,” said Calyniuk.
“There is a lot of confidentiality,” said Rolheiser. “We are careful to protect people’s identity; the drivers who deliver do not have people’s names only their addresses.
Last year we had 363 people (195 adults, 52 teenagers, 91 children and 25 babies). That was 106 Hampers in total delivered; (53 hampers went out in Vermilion, 24 in Mannville, four hampers in Minburn, 20 hampers in Innisfree, one hamper in Islay and four hampers to Clandonald).
We experienced a big setback last year, the demand outnumbered the donations received, and we had to dig into out reserve funds. We had pre-purchased the food gift cards, and then we had a huge deficit of $9,000. We can’t afford to do that again. We were very fortunate in that we had a reserve carried forward from previous years to pay off the deficit.”
Calyniuk says she continues to donate her time to Santa’s Anonymous because of the stories of gratitude that come back from the drivers.
“The drivers are the only ones that meet with recipients. There is usually one or two heart-wrenching stories when the drivers come back,” said Calyniuk.
All of the toys, clothing, and food flow through “Santa’s Workshop” (Atco Gas warehouse), where volunteers assemble each hamper, wrap the gifts and prepare them for pickup or delivery ahead of the holidays. The attention to detail is crucial as volunteers prepare each hamper as if it were intended for members of their family.
“We check our lists twice and makes sure the correct items are in the boxes before delivery. We try to give every child one item off their wish list. Santa’s Anonymous costs about $18,000 - $20,000 per year to run, and we need the donations now more than ever,” said Calyniuk.
“Volunteers from the community raise money and donate toys. Volunteers from the Outreach School fill the children’s wish list boxes and the fire department and the Lion’s Club help with the delivery of the toys every year,” said Calyniuk.
"Santa’s Anonymous runs as an independent project and all funds raised are kept separate from other Lion’s Projects. We are concerned for Santa’s Anonymous 2016 as we are worried about the demand continuing to increase, and the reserve funds will not be able to cover a big deficit again,” said Rolheiser.
Vermilion Scotiabank is accepting cash donations on behalf of Santa's Annonymous.