By Rori Bennett – Junior Reporter
Since the announcement of ‘The Gift’ approximately two months ago, Chatham-Kent has seen signs for this event popping up in every community, from one side of the Municipality to the other.
“The purpose of the Gift is for Chatham-Kent to come together like we use to do, for everyone to have a holiday season, for no one to be forgotten for one moment in time”, Brent Wilkins, one of the organizers, told the Sydenham Current.
“So all of the organizations across Chatham-Kent that do Christmas hampers, from the Good Fellows, St. Vincent de Paul, Salvation Army, to all the churches, and all the way to our community members, came together. The only way we are going to find everybody is with everybody, because there’s so many that only trust you, that wont go to the Good Fellows or Salvation Army.”
Wilkins added: “So everything that we raised is for all of us. For kids going without a Christmas, parents that can’t buy each other a gift, seniors getting a card, to blankets for the homeless. We will try to find everyone. We are going to get creative. It’s not just going to be one method.”
Cindy Shepley, volunteer and president of St. Vincent de Paul in Wallaceburg said they’re very grateful
“We’ve got to help, she said.
“Everybody needs help… everything in this drop off today stays in Wallaceburg. It doesn’t go anywhere else.”
Community volunteers, citizens, and businesses large and small came together on November 21 to ensure that this holiday season is incredible for so many.
Donations of gift cards, beautiful homemade gifts, unwrapped toys and gifts for all ages, pantry items, hygiene products, and winter gifts, to provide warmth in the colder winter weather, were received.
“I couldn’t even fathom the number of donations… it is unbelievable,” Wilkins added.
“Everyone is just overwhelmed by it everywhere. And we haven’t wasted our time with trying to count, because we are just trying to do the best we can for our neighbors. I wouldn’t even want to guess at a number. All of our drop offs are just wall-to-wall with presents and food everywhere.”
Pick ups were scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. and continue through until 2 p.m.
However, volunteers started prior to the 12 p.m. start time and collected into the evening hours in order to accommodate the stunning amount of donations that were left on door steps and front porches.
In addition to the porch pick ups, volunteers congregated at community drop off locations to receive, count, and sort the donations.
Wilkins said the idea for ‘The Gift’ started with Fannie Vavoulis, who had the initial inspiration when the Good Fellows made their announcement about reducing their Christmas program.
“It was like ‘oh no, not Christmas too… COVID is not going to take Christmas away from Chatham Kent,'” Wilkins told the Sydenham Current.
“And so, she had the idea of me contacting Good Fellows, and it went from her to me to take this on and there are a bunch of other people that had input on how to do it. There were four or five people who were involved in creating the idea, but Fannie sparked it first.”
Wilkins said “The Gift Factory” in Chatham will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday this week, for anyone who still wishes to make a donation.
To arrange a drop off, send a Facebook message or email: TheGiftCk.firstname.lastname@example.org
“I hope that people realize their gift and the power that they have to do things, Wilkins added.
“It is inside of each of us to do this. We want to help each other. We have it in us to share our gift, it’s what we naturally want to do if we do… it’s tremendous. We can do tremendous things. This wasn’t planned. Who knows what we will do next. This fits very well for Christmas time, but we will have to wait and see. What will not stop though is us coming together to do what it takes in the community.”
Here are some photos from Saturday’s event: