The LINK’s Secret Santa program to ensure no kid goes without getting a gift under their Christmas tree, is back this year, with some changes in protocols.
Families are being encouraged to sign up by completing an application to participate in the Secret Santa program, before Dec. 11.
This year however, will see several COVID protocols in place, from limiting the number of families that could come and shop at a time, to having sanitizers in place.
“We will definitely be limiting the number of people that could come in at a time. Last year we had kids come in, they could sit and colour or play while their parents were shopping behind the screens, and we won’t be doing that this year. We will certainly be respecting the social distancing and all the orders that have been put in place by the public health officers,” said Candice Little, The Link Food Centre’s finance and food centre manager.
The Secret Santa program will have extended days and hours of operation to try to stagger visitors to the workshop, and they will also be following strict COVID protocols around mask-wearing, hand santizing, and social distancing on site.
“We want to make sure that no child goes without a gift; so we want this program to run but we also want to make sure that ultimately the health and safety of not only our clients but also our volunteers is taken care of,” said Little.
The LINK was initially supposed to participate with the Fun Frost Family event taking place in Burns Lake and they were going to be at the mall partnering with Save On Foods. However, due to the restrictions put in place a couple of weeks back, they decided against participating in person in the events. Instead, they had a drop bin for toys outside Secret Santa’s Workshop in the Lakeview Mall.
“This bin will remain in place through our opening Dec. 11 to our closing Dec. 22. Toys or gifts may also be left at the retailer where the item(s) were purchased, and we will pick them up from there,” added Little.
Santa’s Secret Workshop will be open from Dec. 11 through Dec. 22, daily, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. p.m. for donors to drop off toys or gifts and for recipients to choose and wrap a gift for their children. Last year, the Santa’s workshop provided gifts to 170 children and raised a total of $25,900 during the Christmas drive.
The food bank also does special hampers during Christmas. Last year, the food bank ended up distributing 159 hampers during Christmas.
“We give out things that will help make families’ Christmas more special so we definitely try to put in some specialty items. So the more donation we have, the more we are able to provide. In the past we have done turkeys, boxes of chocolates. Whatever we can do, to make the day special, we do,” said Scott Zayac, Lakes District Family Enhancement Society’s executive director.
For the special hampers, the food bank typically does a turkey, and if it is a large family, they do a turkey and a ham.
“We try to include special things that people don’t get all year round; things like cookies, hot chocolate, pickles, just things that make a celebration dinner, special. So we want to make sure that people are able to celebrate and feel as though they are included in that celebration. So there will be things like, maybe whipping cream for instance, or napkins; napkins are not essential for us to eat day to day but they certainly make a meal feel a little more special when we have those kinds of things,” said Little adding that she expected more people to request hampers this year due to the pandemic.
“I would expect more people to request the hampers. We make sure we plan for the largest number that we can expect because we just want to make sure nobody goes without any,” she said.