Our Optimist club is happy to be partnering with the Salvation Army to once again staff a toy collection site at Conestoga Mall in Waterloo.
The teenager quietly dropping some loose change in the kettle. New parents starting an annual tradition with their newborn. Families sharing what they have. Individuals continuing a decades long practice. And representatives of teams and office groups who have organized their own collections. It warms our hearts to witness the generosity of our community.
Club members are accepting new, unwrapped gifts from noon to 6 pm on Saturdays up to Dec 21. Other local Optimist and Kin clubs will be there on Sundays (noon to 6 pm) and weeknights (5 to 9 pm).
The drop-off site in the mall is located outside Lindt Chocolates (near American Eagle and Indigo). Look for the big drop box decorated in red and green to look like a present.
Need gift ideas? Consider different age groups (infants, older children, pre-teens and teens). Perhaps Play-Doh, Games, Puzzles, Crafts, Lego, gift cards, bath bombs. Or stop by the drop-off site while it’s staffed and ask if there is a particular age group in need.
Need assistance? Waterloo Region residents needing Christmas Assistance can get more information from The Christmas Bureau by visiting www.christmashampers.ca or by calling 519-742-5860.
September can set the tone for the entire school year, often including new clothes, new backpacks and new school supplies. Unfortunately, not every family is so fortunate as to be able to provide these for their children.
Twenty-five years ago, a small group of women decided to make a difference. They provided a backpack filled with new clothes and school supplies to 27 students at one school. Send ‘em Off Smiling (100% volunteer run) has since grown to helping 1,000 kids per year at schools throughout Waterloo Region.
During the year, volunteers shop the sales to assemble a warehouse of clothes, backpacks and school supplies. In the spring, teachers identify students who may benefit from receiving a filled backpack, and with the parent’s approval and input (such as sizes and colour preferences) volunteers prepare a personalized backpack. Other volunteers deliver the backpacks in late August. And the receiving students and their families — their smile says it all!
As a testament to the impact of this program, Send’em Off Smiling tells of former backpack recipients giving volunteer time and financial support to pay it forward to the next generations. What a great community we live in!
How you can help
If you would like to help Send’em Off Smiling, you can volunteer your time, donate money, or participate in their “Shop and Drop” program. Check out their website for more details.
Want to showcase your writing skills? Or your public speaking skills? Consider participating in one or both of our annual contests this school year. With some exceptions, you are welcome to participate every year — an excellent way to practice and develop your skills in a supportive, risk-free environment.
Contestants participate in a club-level contest and winners move on to compete at higher levels where scholarships are awarded to winners. (Click on links below for more details.)