Toy Drive built on community giving

County of Simcoe Paramedic Services launches its 15th annual Toy Drive on Nov. 12, 2017, benefiting local children and families during the holiday season. Donations of new, unwrapped toys will be accepted at various locations and local parades.

Last year alone, they collected nearly 6,000 toys, 3,886 lbs of food, and almost $16,000 in cash and gift cards. “I can’t say enough about our generous residents and business, and the amazing efforts of our paramedics who make the toy drive possible each year,” said Warden Gerry Marshall.

Although the annual campaign operates countywide, the organizers make it a point to keep the giving and receiving as a local community affair. Greg Sharpe is the paramedic who launched the toy drive 15 years ago after seeing a need while on the job.

“We often get into homes and we get to see people at their best and at their worst, and we recognize the need across every town and city in the County of Simcoe, that, there are people that do require a little assistance,” says Sharpe.

Their goal is to provide the kids gifts to reduce the stress on families overall expectations over Christmas, “people are making choices between hydro and food and then Christmas happens,” he says. “We feel like if we can help just take some of the burden off of them during that time of year, and (help) make everybody a little more relaxed and stress free over Christmas,” says Sharpe.

Together with a few of his colleagues, he had “just kind of a splinter” when Alliston, Midland and Orillia had their own drives happening. “We decided just to coordinate it and make just one huge effort and since then it has grown to include every paramedic station across the county and we have a network of paramedics that tailor the campaign to our own communities,” says Sharpe.

In Coldwater, for example, there is a need for toys, but an even greater need for food, so they know to set up at the local Foodland where they collect for a day, stocking up the food banks. Locals can donate through drop boxes with signage for anyone who is dropping off at stations or the donation centre in Midhurst.

Sharpe works hands-on in Coldwater, where all of his donations stay, and they strive to keep the effect local with “neighbours helping neighbours.”

A few local business help with the drives, and county paramedics will be at most local parades and collect in front of department stores like Walmart and grocery stores.

Cash donations are also accepted and important to note that there is no overhead, “every toy, every food item, every dollar that comes into us goes directly to the charity,” says Sharpe. “That’s why we do it, we want to see all of the donations go to where they need to be.”


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Photo credit: Zhen Hu

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