Christmas for Kids (C4Kids) assisted 705 people from 205 families during the holiday season in 2023. This figure has doubled in the past five years.
But the support has grown strong for the charitable organization in recent years, with president Myrlene Boken noting the folks who helped Santa Claus and his elves as they organized vast amounts of donated toys and goods at the Stroud Innisfil Community Centre this past December, as well as the people who run food and toy drives at schools, and the churches that offer space to sort items.
“There are literally thousands of people who volunteer for us in one capacity or another,” she said.
She noted the local charity is also supported by town staff and councillors, as well as businesses that organize special events to raise money and encourage donations.
Lisa Riseboro has supported the organization for more than a decade.
“When our family first encountered Christmas For Kids (through) our church, we were overwhelmed to learn of the need in the Innisfil community,” said Riseboro. “Up until then, we found that our donations of food, clothing, money or toys were (channelled) to Barrie as most (organizations) were headed up there. It was so wonderful to find a group that was supporting our own community's needs.”
“We are comforted to know that 100 per cent of our donations go to those in need and are not spent on the administration of the charity,” she said.
Riseboro has supported the charity through her church and business, and most recently, the Fran Moore Foundation set up by her late sister.
“My sister, Frances Moore, held C4K close to her heart, wanting to help care for people’s needs directly. Her foundation will continue to make monetary donations annually for as long as it is (needed),” she said.
Boken told InnisfilToday that those assisted in 2023 included 23 vulnerable teens identified through a local high school. C4Kids also purchased 333 winter coats and 297 pairs of boots.
“It is so important that children grow up feeling valued and worthy of our attention and kindness. That starts with knowing that someone is looking out for them, and feels they are worthy of a nice Christmas, and gifts that they will enjoy,” she said. “It was a tough year, in that donations did not come in as they have in other years; we took each day at a time, measuring donations and purchasing as we were able. In the end, some very generous donations came in and saved the day. We have enough in our account to start our year-round programming for 2024."
Boken notes that C4Kids has a focus on the holiday season, but its efforts continue year-round.
“In the next month, we will be applying for a name change to better reflect the direction our charity is moving to. Community for Kids better reflects the tremendous generosity of Innisfil, in making our program possible,” she said.
Boken and other volunteers are currently focused on helping those facing an emergency situation access food, as well as gasoline to get to work.
“Easter is the next big project. We already have the turkeys in the freezer, we have vegetables being donated and Nantyr Shores (Secondary School) and Friday Harbour do food drives,” she said. “We use leftover Christmas gifts for the Easter baskets. The only items we have to buy are the actual Easter baskets. We usually need 130 or so, and good-quality chocolate. If we are going to give kids candy, then we want to give good quality milk or dark chocolate. It costs a little more, but we keep our other expenses low.”
C4Kids is always in need of gift cards for grocery stores. Make a donation for Easter (and arrange for a pickup or drop-off) by calling Myrlene Boken or Karen Lewis; people in Cookstown can reach out to Debra Harrison.