One of Santa’s special workshops is working full-steam ahead as the Friday deadline for anyone worried about Christmas this year approaches.
Under the leadership of the Amherst Lions Club, the Christmas For Kids workshop at the Amherst Centre Mall is accepting applications until Dec. 8th from families in need of a little extras Christmas magic this year. Afterwards, the local elves will handle the final touches.
Now in its 25th year, the Lions took over Christmas For Kids three years ago after a 22-year run under the leadership of Jean Miller. Families in need apply by phone or go to the Amherst Centre Mall location, where they can identify the number of children they are applying for and reasons for their applications. There is no income cutoff, Lion Phil Baxter says, because every family and their circumstances are different, so applications are dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
This year, so far at least, numbers are slightly lower than previous years but still significant.
“As of today [Dec. 5th], we have 445 registered children, from approximately 200 families,” Baxter said.
Those applicants are from both Amherst and surrounding Cumberland County, except Springhill where the Lions Club there operates a community Toys For Tots program.
After applications close, 11 local businesses host ‘angel’ lists where members of the public can choose which wish list items they want to pick up. Monetary donations also help fill out orders, and even more come in the way of drop-off donations to the mall location.
Inside the mall workshop tables are lined with such donations. Toys and clothing cover table after table and each child will benefit from the local generosity. Each child receives a pair of mittens or gloves with their application, some of them hand knitted by local supporters.
So far, Baxter says, Christmas For Kids is on track to have many, many wishes fulfilled.
“This time we’ll probably have 350 bags piled and this entire are will be stacked,” Baxter said. “By Wednesday, next week, we hope to have them all out.”
Beginning Dec. 11, volunteers will start contacting families to pick up the bundles of Christmas cheer.
Community Credit Union, Toyota, Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada and the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre are key partners for the project, but Baxter says it would be impossible for the program to succeed without all of the support received from local businesses, donations and volunteers.
General inquiries to Christmas For Kids can be made by calling 902-667-1949.