SPRINGHILL, N.S. – There was a brief moment when members of the Springhill Lions Club wondered if they would be able to meet the growing demand for help this Christmas.
While the program normally serves around 80 or so children in Springhill, the number of referrals surpassed the 90 mark it's expected to settle at around 100 children.
“The demand keeps going up, but we live in such a generous community and it’s a community that has responded,” Toys for Tots coordinator Karen Morris said. “People have been coming in with donations of toys and we have had groups, organizations and individuals drop in with cash and cheques to help us out.”
Toys for Tots, like its counterpart Christmas for Kids in Amherst, aims to make sure every child in the Springhill area wakes up with gifts under the tree on Christmas morning. The program has operated out of the Elm Street Dental Clinic building several years thanks to the support of Dr. Randy Ryan and his family.
Morris said referrals began coming in almost as soon as the office was first opened for referrals several weeks ago, and unlike the Amherst program that saw a slow start, she said things have been hectic from the beginning.
People can come to the centre on Dec. 21 to pick up the gifts.
One of the biggest challenges the group of Lions has is there is no longer a Bargain Shop in Springhill while Giant Tiger is in Amherst and they were unable to get support from Walmart this Christmas.
What usually happens, Morris said, is once a Lion learns what is needed, he or she woulddrive to Amherst to pick up toys and bring them back to the centre. Another tool Morris used was social media and the Lions Facebook page. She would post what gifts were needed and people in the community responded by bringing in those items.
There were also drop-off boxes at the pharmacies in Springhill while the churches also collected toys.
And the support from organizations in and surrounding Springhill has been incredible. Morris said the sewing circle in Mapleton and Leamington brought in a donation and the Southampton United Church hosted a white gift Sunday and brought those gifts to the Toys for Tots Centre.
Surrette Battery in Springhill also threw its support behind the group. Employees held a 50/50 raising just over $300. It was matched dollar for dollar by the company and a cheque for a little more than $600 was delivered to the centre.
She said the demand is continuing to grow every year. This year, she said, there were requests from students attending the NSCC in Springhill as well as people who just moved to the community.
She said there are also some larger families who needed help.
“I think before the largest we had was six children, but this year we have a family who had more than that,” Morris said.
Morris started sending out emails and text messages several weeks ago to previous recipients reminding them of the program and she was happy how many people have come to appreciate the program.
“I got some replies back from people saying they didn’t need the program this year, but how much they appreciated the support in other years,” Morris said. “It really makes you feel that our little organization is helping make a difference in our little town.”