Community donations requested for Christmas Baskets

Sharon Martin, the Coordinator of Six Nations’ Christmas Baskets program is pleading with the community to increase donations for the toys and food baskets that will be distributed to families in need again this year. She says she does not understand why, but donations were down significantly last year, while the challenge of buying toys and food has become increasingly more expensive.

Martin encourages the community to consider the stress of being a low income single parent with numerous children to provide for. Christmas is a happy time of year for those who have money, but it can be very stressful when you have limited income.

Martin acknowledges that the Christmas Baskets program feels the financial pressure of trying to buy likeable toys for older children. She stated that by age 9, a child’s wish list consists of mostly expensive electronics, which many parents cannot afford and unfortunately, neither can the Christmas Baskets program. They have attempted to ameliorate this concern by now offering gift cards which can be used by families to subsidize the cost of pricey electronics.

Martin’s mother, Wilma General, started the Christmas Baskets program at Six Nations in 1972, offering the first “toy store” or toy distribution centre in Ohsweken. Martin chuckles reflecting back on the times in the old Community Hall when they had to sleep there overnight because security was such an issue.

Many volunteers give tirelessly for months to make sure that the program is a success every year. They load and unload deliveries, drive around to local grocery stores to acquire banana boxes for packing the food baskets, set up tables, assist families in selecting their goods and keep all of the paperwork in order.

Martin says that several organizations in the community have been very good to the Christmas Baskets every year, including Emily C. General School, GRE and Grand River Employment and Training. Six Nations Council has always supported the Christmas Baskets program.

In 2013, the Six Nations Christmas Baskets program distributed food baskets to 593 families. 173 single people received a food basket with a ham, while 906 children up to the age of 17 received toys.

Martin is challenging Six Nations organizations, schools, businesses and individuals to support the Christmas Baskets program with fundraising and increased donations. The program will operate from the Six Nations Community Hall.

On December 1st, there will be a telephone line dedicated to Christmas Baskets. The phone number, as of December 1st, will be 519-445-0035.

The work Christmas Baskets has to complete is being started now. Anyone wishing to volunteer is asked to call the Six Nations Ontario Works office at 519-445-2084 and leave your name and phone number.

For those donating, charitable receipts can be given for tax purposes. Donations of gently used clothing will be accepted starting in mid-November, but it is preferred that donations be dropped off at the Community Hall on December 8th and 9th, as storage is a challenge. Volunteered time can be used towards Dreamcatchers and high school required volunteer hours.

Toy distribution for 2014 is scheduled for December 10th, 11th and 12th from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Food baskets will be handed out on December 22nd. People requiring a food basket are asked to contact their local band councillor or to attend at the Six Nations Ontario Works office to fill out the form.

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