For volunteers of Santa’s Workshop, October would normally be spent preparing for the busiest time of the year.
This year, however, the ‘elves’ will be quiet, as the organization which supplies Christmas gifts to children from newborns to 15 years of age will not be operational due to the pandemic.
“We just feel really bad,” says co-ordinator Barb Metheral. “Hopefully next year we will be back.”
Metheral explained volunteers generally begin the hunt for a location in September for where the workshop will be located. The location is used for both members of the public to drop off donations of new and re-usable toys, books, puzzles, games, bikes, electronics and cash as well as a space for volunteers to clean and fix toys and for people to ‘shop’ for children.
In the summer, the organization took a step back to reassess their viability this year.
“When it was time to start looking for a location, things got shut down, so we thought, ‘do we even look for a place?’ We canvassed our volunteers; about seven-eights of them are seniors and asked if they wanted to volunteer this time, and generally, we got no’s.”
Metheral adds the organization also became aware both locations they used last year – for the shop and bike repairs – were occupied. Board members also noted a larger location would be needed in order to properly ensure social distancing protocols were being followed.
“There were just so many unknowns, especially with things like our used toys, where we would have to do a lot of cleaning and sanitizing. We also don’t know what the (COVID-19) numbers will look like in November and December.”
With more than 70 volunteers assisting with Santa’s Workshop every year, Metheral says it was difficult to visualize how their team would be able to ensure the health and safety of both ‘elves’ and those dropping off and shopping for gifts, particularly when they didn’t have a location in mind.
In past years, Santa’s Workshop has assisted around 250 families a year in supplying gifts.
Additionally, she notes the difficulty as the demand for assistance, particularly around the holiday season, will be even greater this year due to the many people who lost their jobs.
“I hope there are other ways for people to get help. We are planning for next year, but we will wait and see what happens.”