Neighbourhood Network has been running its Holiday Gift Drive program for fifteen years— and this holiday season, the need in communities is greater than ever.
Located in Aurora, Neighbourhood Network is a department of Magna International Inc. It was established to promote volunteerism and easily link volunteers to opportunities with charities in York Region. There are 450 registered charities and non-profits supported through Neighbourhood Network, and 100 opportunities currently posted on their website.
The Holiday Gift Drive program has been running since Neighbourhood’s Network’s 2008 inception.
“It came about because we had local businesses that approached us and said they were interested in supporting the community but weren’t sure what types of donations were needed and how best to distribute them,” says Erin Cerenzia, Magna International’s Manager of Community Relations.
There are two ways for people to support the gift drive: sponsoring a family and making a donation.
For donations, Neighbourhood Network works with their charitable partners to collect wish lists from their clients. The wish lists are posted on Neighbourhood Network’s website as “Holiday Gift Drive Requests.”
Individuals can view the items on the wish lists, go out and buy some of the items, and drop them off at one of the two drop-off locations until December 15th: Neighbourhood Network’s office (337 Magna Dr., Aurora on any day of the week, 24/7) or the Newmarket Chamber of Commerce (470 Davis Drive, Newmarket from Monday-Thursday, 9 AM - 3PM). Neighbourhood Network then distributes the gifts to the local organizations, who will give them to their clients.
To learn about some of the families in need and sponsor them directly, individuals can email [email protected]. Whether someone gifts items from a wish list or sponsors a family, they can be assured that their gifts are doing good in their home community.
Last year, the Holiday Gift Drive program supported over 300 individuals. Based on the number of requests that have already come in this year, the program is on track to surpass that. Some of the most requested items on sponsor-a-family forms are what most of us would consider everyday necessities, such as toiletries, toilet paper and cleaning products.
“We launched the program earlier this year because unfortunately the needs are the greatest that we’ve ever seen. Anyone who’s following the news or living in this post-COVID world is very aware of the cost-of-living crisis and the situation that many people are in,” says Erin.
Urgently needed items for the drive include gift cards, new and unwrapped toys, winter wear, toiletries, and diapers. Many donors enjoy purchasing gifts for young kids, but Neighbourhood Network wants to ensure there are also enough gifts for older youths and teens. Gift cards for businesses like Amazon and Walmart are welcomed for that age range. While they may not seem as personal, gift cards empower the recipients to go shopping for themselves or for a loved one, which is a gift in and of itself.
“We know that donors may not be able to give the way that they have previously, but we don’t want them to be discouraged because every single donation counts. You may feel like all you can contribute is a $25 gift card, but that gift card can be the difference between someone having a gift on the holidays or none at all. No matter what you’re doing, your gift has an impact on someone in need in our community,” says Erin.
“We want people to be engaged. We know that our communities are only strong when we step up, give back and come together.”
Learn more about how you can support Neighbourhood Network’s Holiday Gift Drive program here.