KAMLOOPS — An organization that has brought joy to children and families for the last 40 years has opened its doors for another year.
Launched by Sally Whitson, Christmas Amalgamated ensures Kamloops families have a 'Merry Christmas,' and Monday marked the first day people could come in and sign up for a Christmas hamper while shopping for their children's gifts.
Ria Johnstone is getting a head-start on her Christmas shopping, being taken around with a personal shopper to pick toys for her three daughters.
"Having something that we can fall back on in a time of struggle is a relief," says Johnstone. "Knowing I'll be able to provide something for my girls on Christmas morning."
Johnstone's daughters are 1, 2 and 10 years old, and with only one income in the family, she says it's a hard time of year.
"Right now it is a huge struggle. We have a 1, 2 and 10 year old at home. He's the only working parent right now, so it's a big struggle to get through. But we do it," he notes.
Whitson started Christmas Amalgamated 40 years ago. She says helping families at this time of year is what keeps her going.
"When the mother comes into register to apply for a Christmas hamper, we take her through our gift section and she chooses what she wants to give her kids for Christmas," says Whitson. "Then we package them up, she takes them home with her."
But she thinks this may be a challenging year, already noticing fewer donations to begin with, noting there were three times more toys last year.
Whitson is also short of volunteers, some of the lowest numbers she's had as some long-time volunteers move on to bigger and better things, while others are getting older. It's probably her biggest immediate need as she launches another Christmas Amalgamated campaign.
"Any volunteers," notes Whitson. "It'll be for the shopping procedure and helping people with their toys and that kind of stuff."
There's also a need to restock the shelves, knowing the toys will go fast.
"I have very little toys for babies and teens, and pretty much all ages are really low in supply compared to what we've had in other years," she says.
Food hamper donations will be more needed in December. Johnstone has already signed up her family for a hamper.
"Knowing that I can provide that meal that I grew up with for my girls on Christmas Day is a big relief that I otherwise wouldn't be able to give this year."
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