Our 2020 Holiday Toy Room program has wrapped up and to say things were different this season is an understatement. Due to restrictions and public health measures surrounding the pandemic we were not able to provide supports to as many women as past.  We saw 810 women select gifts for themselves and 1946 children, a total of 2756 individuals received gifts through the Toy Room this holiday season. This is down significantly from 2019 where almost 4200 individuals received gifts. However, this decrease did not signify a lack of need; we unfortunately had to turn many women away as COVID restrictions prevented us from having large numbers of people in our space.

In order to ensure the safety of women, volunteers, donors and staff, we booked women for appointments, conducted health screenings over the phone and in-person, put up plexi-glass barriers, reduced the number of women in the space and regularly sanitized high touch surfaces. Dedicated toy volunteers, Christine, Patrice and Caitlyn, ensured that gifts were quarantined and sorted and displayed for easy, COVID-friendly selection by women.

One of our volunteers, Kim, commented, “The setup was great, the precautions you had for us volunteers were great and it’s a fantastic program for women who need some help.”

In the initial planning stages, in addition to implementation of necessary COVID safety measures, we realized that we also needed to be adaptive for toy drives and donations. With much of the corporate Calgary offices working remotely, and the cancellation of staff holiday parties, we had lost a major stream of donations for the program. However, through the development of new partnerships with businesses like Best Buy Canada and with commitments from our longstanding donor groups we received overwhelming response from the community to our call for donations.

One of our most successful partnerships again this year was with locally owned and operated business, Castle Toys. Through their website, Castle Toys facilitated online donations. They offered a 20% discount to donors and the option to send the donated items directly to the Women’s Centre. This allowed donors to shop and donate from the safety of their own homes.

Nicholas (Nick) Mason from Castle toys says, “It was amazing to see the amount of orders we were receiving online. And people shopping in the store would grab something and put it right into the bin. I’ve never seen our donation bins fill up as quickly as in 2020. When I’ve done previous toy drives with other non-profits, we’d get a pick-up maybe once every week, once every two weeks, but I think with the Women’s Centre we were one every two days or so and that was just fantastic to see.”

Nick believes that this year’s success is because a local non-profit partnered with a local business. He says “We saw a large reduction in our revenue in 2020, but we still had lots of great customers and clients that were willing to donate to a local organization. I know a lot of us here, the staff and myself included, always try to give to a non-profit close to where we are.”

We also received great responses from individual donors already connected to the Women’s Centre community. It was heartening to see donors from organizations, local businesses and the community step up and support this program. We even had some youth donors who organized drives and brought donations to the Centre. Joelle (grade 6) was inspired to donate to the Centre after watching The Christmas Drop on Netflix. Olivia (aged 17) organized a donation drive through HEAR for Them and the Sir Winston Churchill High School Interact Club. And youth, Hallie and Candace organized a Stuff-a-Sock drive in their community. These are just few examples of the grassroots organizing that made the Toy Room possible.

We would like to say a huge thank you to all our sponsors, donors, community and everyone else who contributed to ensuring the 2020 Holiday Toy Room could proceed in spite of the pandemic. Your generosity and dedication to the community helped us to support women and their families during this difficult time.

We wish to thank and highlight our generous sponsors and donors for organizing toy drives for the 2020 Toy Room Program.

Thank you to:

  • 142nd Calgary Brownies
  • 360 Energy
  • Alberta Ecotrust Foundation
  • Baby Gourmet
  • Best Buy Canada Inc.
  • Black Diamond Group
  • BMO
  • BMO Equity Research
  • BMO Nesbitt Burns
  • Bridgeland Market
  • BrownLee LLP
  • Calgary and District Labour Council
  • Calgary Canucks Hockey Team
  • Calgary Co-op Oakridge
  • Calgary Flames Foundation
  • Calgary Mountainview MLA Kathleen Ganley
  • Calgary NDP Mountainview Constituency Association
  • Calgary Neighbourhoods
  • Calgary Philharmonic
  • Calgary Police Services #5148 (Constable Ursu, Community Resource Officer for District 3)
  • Canadian Progress Club – Calgary City Centre
  • Capital Hill School
  • Carey Family
  • Cathy Howarth and Friends
  • Cenovus
  • Centre for Sexuality
  • Century 21 Bamber Realty Ltd
  • CFUW North
  • Chevron
  • Chinook Historical Society
  • CIBC Northland Banking Centre
  • Costco Wholesale Canada 56
  • CPL Construction
  • Dentons
  • Dragon Fly Ridge
  • Dunphy Best Blocksom LLP
  • Eden Simari Mortgage Solutions
  • Eight Eight Brewing
  • Evive Smoothies
  • Evolve Contracting
  • Experience Church
  • First on Site Restorations
  • Fort Calgary Chapter IODE
  • Gibson Energy
  • Grow Calgary
  • GYMVMT (International Fitness Holdings)
  • Home Depot (Marlborough, McKenzie Town, Shawnessy, Tuscany)
  • J. Derer Professional Corporation
  • Jade Alacntara Family and Friends
  • Joan Farkas and Friends
  • Kiwanis Northmount
  • Klopp Richards & Associates
  • Law Society
  • Manulife
  • Marketmall Physio
  • Mawer Investment Management
  • Michelle Houle
  • Minto Communities
  • MQM Calgary, Masood Hasan
  • MyVIPConcierge
  • Nicoll Family
  • Nolanhill Community
  • Nutrien
  • Optimist Club of Calgary
  • Precision Sports Therapy
  • Purses of Hope
  • RCGG King of Story Chapel
  • Revive Lifestyle Fitness
  • Revive Laser
  • Scott Builders
  • Secure Energy
  • Sharon Cageorge Bailey Inc.
  • Shell
  • Shylo Victoria Fragrance
  • Silver Springs Evening League
  • Silver Springs Golf and Country Club
  • SMART Technologies
  • Smith and Anderson
  • Smith Cageorge Bailey Inc.
  • Source Energy
  • Springbank High School
  • Matthew Lutheran Church
  • Stagg Family
  • Stephen’s Backpack Society
  • Stretching Together
  • Stuff a Sock
  • Synergea Family Health Centre
  • Taqa North
  • The Cinemates
  • Trimac Transportation
  • Turbrett Family and Friends
  • Unifor Local 1990
  • University of Calgary Computer Science Department
  • University of Calgary Department of History
  • University of Calgary Research Services
  • University of Calgary School of Public Policy
  • Whitehorn Village Retirement Community

Even though Toy Room has wrapped up for another season, women in Calgary still need your support. We ask that you keep the Women’s Centre in mind, particularly as we continue to adapt to restrictions on in-person gatherings and adjust how we provide services during the pandemic.

We are always looking for donations of personal care items, funds for programming, and new and unopened toys for our Birthday Gift program. For information on how to donate, what you can donate and other ways to get involved, click here. Stay posted to the Women’s Centre newsletters and website for details on our programs and services.

We look forward to when we can gather safely in person again and to another year of providing support to women in our community.

 

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