Southeastern Ontario’s oldest continuing holiday appeal, the Tree of Hope, won’t be collecting toys this year because of COVID-19.
The annual holiday fundraiser has been helping families serviced by Children’s Aid Society for more than 100 years. Every year it collects toys, personal items, baby gear and more for hundreds of kids. But because of COVID-19, this year the Tree of Hope will stop collecting toys and instead distribute gift cards to families to purchase their own needs for the holidays.
“Last year we collected, stored and then distributed toys, personal items, clothing and more for 750 of the children we serve in Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington. This year because of COVID-19 we have to do something different to keep everyone safe,” said John Suart, manager of community relations for KFLA Family and Children Services.
The Tree of Hope is a holiday appeal that helps children served by Family and Children’s Services and includes people of all faiths and beliefs, including Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali and more. All are welcome under the Tree of Hope. It provides things kids need, from toys and clothing to culture and heritage.
This will be one of the first times in 100 years that toy collection will not be a part of the agency’s annual holiday appeal. More than 500 donors supported the campaign last year with donations of new toys, personal items, baby gear, books and more. An extensive review concluded that the same system would not be safe this year because of COVID-19. The seasonal spaces, people and systems the campaign uses were never designed to handle a situation like a pandemic and cannot be easily adapted.
To keep families, staff and volunteers safe the Tree of Hope will be switching to issuing gift cards to families to buy what they need when they need it for the holidays. The campaign has used gift cards for some families in the past and it has a system in places that works. Instead of asking for toys, the Tree of Hope will be asking people to donate money so it can buy gift cards. It has set a monetary goal of $50,000 for this year’s campaign.
“We know that for many of our donors buying toys and delivering them to the Tree of Hope was special. For them, it was the meaning of the holiday season,” said Suart. “We hope that they understand that we are all having to adapt to our new world and we’re asking them to stay and donate the money we need to make the Tree of Hope work.”
“If there ever was a time when the kids we serve needed our help over the holidays it is now.” Suart added. “After all of the things that COVID-19 has done these kids deserve a great holiday season. And that’s what we intend to give them.”
People can find out more about the Tree of Hope or make a donation at www.HelpTreeofHope.ca.