The Monsignor Hugh MacPherson Council of the Knights of Columbus, along with other supporters, has put the bow on another successful Christmas toy drive.
“We were able to help 139 families – more than 300 kids – in Antigonish town and county,” Clarence Deyoung, one of the organizers, said.
Up until Christmas Eve, there was plenty of hustle and bustle at the ‘toy house’ at Antigonish Market Square.
“I don’t know whether it is us getting better at it, or we are learning from it every year, or what it is, but I found that it ran smoother,” Deyoung said.
“We didn’t have to put as many hours in, as we did in the past. We got more volunteers who came on board to help us.
“Overall, I just felt that it went extremely well,” he added.
Deyoung talked about the importance of confidentiality.
“Once we get the order, we make a copy of it – blanking out the names – and then we have volunteers who come in and they put the order together,” he said.
“It is left on the shelf for the next group of volunteers, who come in and go through the same order again.”
Deyoung noted a minimum of four people checked each order.
“Just in case we had missed on a size, or we had missed on an age, or we had missed on something. It was something new this year, but it seemed to go very well,” he said.
Deyoung talked about the types of donations, including an increase in people sponsoring families.
“If there was a child asking for anything hockey related, they would call me back and get me to call the family to ask if the child had a preferred hockey team, so they could go get something,” he said.
“We had a situation where mom filled in an application and she is asking for something specifically related to a family matter that had happened throughout the year. I couldn’t find anything like that, so I phoned Ross Screenprint and, right away, they had something printed off for me.”
Deyoung noted there was another child “asking for absolutely nothing other than something with Dodge Ram.”
“So, I phoned good old Donnie [Stewart] at MacDonald Chrysler and he was down in half an hour with a coffee mug, calendar, hat and whatever else,” he said.
“Those may seem like little things, but to that kid Christmas morning they are fantastic, and I am sure it made their day.”
In talking about the community contribution to the effort, Deyoung noted a couple ladies continued their tradition of knitting mitts and hats for the gift bags.
“It is absolutely fantastic. We are so appreciative of that. There are so many good stories out there of people who have done some great things,” he said.
Deyoung added people also brought in “very slightly used” items.
“I would go through them and I would find a family that I thought they would fit and I would call the mom and ask her to come see it,” he said.
“Because it is Christmas, we want to give new toys, but these – to me – are new; the difference being they are out of the box.
“We didn’t want to put them in a bag, send it off to mom, and have her think that we are sending her used stuff. I wanted to be able to explain it,” Deyoung added.
He noted two families came in to see items and “absolutely loved them.”
“They were so ecstatic,” Deyoung said.
He noted keys to success included getting the message out.
“They got the word out there unbelievably; we kept hearing more and more people saying that,” Deyoung said of the local media contribution.
Another is the Antigonish Market Square location.
“It is so critical, because we are able to sell our one dollar tickets on our major prizes,” Deyoung said, noting that fundraiser garnered more than $4,000.
He added the toy drive also profited from their Styrofoam ball games, which “people loved and had fun doing.”
“We gift wrap and we also have a locked box on a table for people to drop off locations,” Deyoung said.
“And, of course, we have the bags ready that families can come in and pick up.”
Deyoung said participating in the toy drive is an ideal way for the Knights to fulfill their number one principle – charity.
“And charity starts at home, so we are trying to continue that on, year after year after year, and hope we can for many more years,” he said.