The volunteers at Santas Anonymous are especially busy at Christmas, but, because birthdays can come on any day of the year, they work all the time.
The society, founded in 1990 in Lyle Peterson’s garage, collects used toys, books and games in good condition and makes them available to low-income families with children up to age 12.
“We don’t check finances. People who use the service really need it and they tell us how much they appreciate it,” said Vi Brett, vice-president of Santas Anonymous.
The centre is open each Tuesday year- round with volunteers sorting, repairing, cleaning and sorting the donated items. The centre also has new items bought with cash donations, money from fundraising and the annual Toy Run. In the month leading up to Christmas, the centre is open five days a week and on weekends for people who can’t come during the week. It is necessary to make an appointment to select Christmas gifts but people can come in at any time on Tuesdays for birthday gifts.
“We always need volunteers, including people who are mechanically and electrically inclined so we can check to make sure those toys are working and safe and repair them as needed,” said Brett.
Volunteers are also needed for setting up for the annual garage sale and general help. Some volunteers take on the task of counting the pieces in puzzles that are donated in boxes or putting together the puzzles that come in a bag to make sure all the pieces are there and labeling them.
One volunteer refurbished Barbies and other dolls, does their hair, makes new clothes for them and gets them ready to go to a new home. Children’s bikes, rollerblades, skates, play centres and small furniture are also refurbished. Books and games in good condition are accepted as donations. There is also a need for donations of baskets to be used to make up gift baskets.
“I really enjoy being a volunteer and the people here. We all get along really well here. Some people try volunteering here and it’s not for them but at least they tried,” said Barb Lall.
“I love the people I work with and the parents are so appreciative when they come in for anything.”
The volunteers are appreciative of community support.
“We have some businesses and individuals that give a gift for here instead of exchanging gifts at their Christmas parties. One couple has an auction every year. And we have a girl who is now about 17 who has been having her birthday party guests give gifts to Santas Anonymous for the past 10 years or so,” said Jennifer Drozda.
Santas Anonymous, with longtime president Rick Trehearne, provided gifts for almost 400 children last year and the number has been as high as 900 in previous years.
For more information about Santas Anonymous, or to arrange to leave donations or select gifts, call 250-542-4448.