Thanks to the generosity of West Kelowna residents and business owners, families on the Westside will have something to smile about this holiday season.
Gifts of varying size and complexity line the walls inside the Westbank Lions Community Centre. Busy Westside Salvation Army volunteers shuffle around ensuring the display is kept well-stocked. Every 30 minutes, two families come in, choose a handful of gifts, wrap them, and leave smiling.
Despite abnormalities in this year’s holiday season, it’s clear the community spirit in West Kelowna is alive and well.
A combined effort of toy drives and donations by local residents and businesses contributed to $22,000 in donations to the Westside Salvation Army, allowing them to purchase holiday gifts for others. Last Thursday (Dec. 3) 11 local restaurants offered the option of adding $5 to their bills, in order to support local families. This initiative raised a whopping $22,000.
Through this week, registered families are visiting the Westbank Lions Community Centre to pick up gifts for the whole family. From brand new trucks to dolls, to Lego, gift cards and even smartwatches, there’s something for everyone.
Each child will receive about $100 in gifts. The Salvation Army has enough new toys stockpiled to serve about 100 families, including about 300 children.
“We were really excited about the response,” said Lenetta Parry with the Westside Salvation Army.
“Donors can smile Christmas morning knowing there are lots of happy kids. We want to extend a heartfelt thank you out to all of the generous donors in the community who made this possible.”
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Each family also receives a board game, and stockings stuffed with gifts and treats. In addition, when they’re heading out the door, families will be given even more. Every teen gets a gift card, 1st Class Autoglass And Upholstery is giving every dad a pair of free wiper blades, and mom receives a gift basket full of goodies.
This is the first time a toy store like this has been set up in West Kelowna. Parry said they expanded to meet a continuously growing need. Previously, West Kelowna families in need would have to travel to Kelowna for assistance like this in the holiday season.
Despite this large initiative already underway, Parry said it’s not too late to contribute to the cause. Visit Westsidesa.ca, or stop by a local kettle to donate.
A mother of five and grandmother to three was one of many who stopped by the Lions Club on Dec. 9 to pick up gifts for her loved ones. She was extremely grateful.
“It’s important. The community support that Jenn(ifer Henson) and her husband provide to West Kelowna, it’s really known… What they provide for families, it’s just really appreciated,” said Heather Spence.
Despite the many young ones in the home, Spence always does her best to share the love. If there are extra toys leftover from what has been donated to her, she plans on donating them to others in the housing complex where she lives.
“We consider each other family,” she said.
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