toy drive

“Adopt a Family” program at Villanova yields big results for area families



By Ron Giofu


The Christmas season was alive and well at St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School last week.

Prior to a Thursday morning mass in the school’s gymnasium, students brought in a large number of gifts and food items that will be going to families in need in the Windsor-Essex County area.

Teacher Maggie Ducharme explained that students bought clothing and gifts that met the needs of families that require them this holiday season.

“They also provided a monetary donation to help with Christmas dinner for the families,” she stated.

A canned food drive in November raised over 5,000 cans and non-perishable food items.

Students at St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School proceed into the gym last Thursday with their gifts for the Adopt a Family program.

In all, St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School is assisting 38 families this holiday season. Ducharme said they are in their 15th year of the “Adopt a Family” program and the Catholic high school has assisted over 700 families in that time.

Charities of choice this year are the Divine Mercy Food Bank, the Essex and Area Food Bank and the Children’s Aid Society (CAS).

“All members of the school community have been part of the project,” said Ducharme.

Students Ethan MacKinnon and Isabella Kaschalk were happy with the efforts of their school.

“I think that compared to past years, it’s a large quantity of stuff we have collected,” said Kaschalk. “Many of these families come from nothing. We’re allowing them to have a great Christmas their parents can’t afford.”

“The whole school got involved,” said MacKinnon. “We can’t ask for more than that. It’s a really good cause.”

Kaschalk said they feel proud as a school community because they helped those in need at Christmas.

“It helps (the families) feel better during Christmas time,” she said.


Local store helps out with toys for Amherstburg Fire Department’s toy drive



By Ron Giofu


A local clothing store’s fashion show has turned into a Christmas donation that will benefit local children.

Déjà Vu New 2’s fashion show at Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157 in November generated the $500 that was used to purchase toys for local children. Store owner Kim Malega planned the fashion show with staff members Karen Sauro and Marita Wistuba but noted it was the generosity of her customers, including those who attended the fashion show, that made the donation possible.

“They did a great job. I’m proud of them,” said Malega. “We’ll do it again next year.”

Malega was pleased that the toys will stay local, adding they had a good time raising the money and enjoyed giving back to the town.

“The ladies that come in here are awesome,” she added. “They really get behind the store.”

Firefighters Adam Mann (left) and Mark Stock (right) accept Christmas gifts from Deja Vu New 2, represented by Marita Wistuba and Kim Malega.

The toys were picked up by members of the Amherstburg Fire Department. The Amherstburg Firefighters Association, who represents the members at the local fire department, are hosting their “Stuff a Fire Truck” toy drive again this year.

“It’s distributed through the Goodfellows and there are other families in need that contact us but are not through the Goodfellows,” explained Firefighter Mark Stock.

Stock and Firefighter Adam Mann were on hand Friday to pick up the toys from Déjà Vu New 2.

“We’re still looking for donations. We need donations for young teens. That’s where we are short,” said Stock.

Suggestions for young teens include retail gift cards, movie passes, electronics and manicure and spa certificates. The “Stuff a Fire Truck” toy drive includes youth up to 15-years-old, said Stock.

New, unwrapped toys will be accepted at any of the three Amherstburg fire halls or at Canadian Tire, Movati Fitness or the Amherstburg Health Care Centre. Please do not donate stuffed animals. Cash donations are accepted, however.

Amherstburg stuffs fire trucks with toys for Christmas



By Jolene Perron


For five years, Amherstburg Fire and Rescue employees have been helping families in need within their community by collecting toys for children and families for the holiday season.

Amherstburg Fire and Rescue employees went out into the community to gather toys from their multiple drop off locations Dec. 20. One of their stops was at General Amherst High School, where students came together to collect piles of toys to donate to the cause.

“It’s awesome, the generosity of the people of Amherstburg is just amazing,” said Mark Stock, firefighter with the Amherstburg Fire and Rescue and coordinator of the toy drive. “We have an abundance of toys, every year people come out and make us proud to be Amherstburg residents.”

This year, their drop off centers at Movati Fitness Club, Amherstburg Home Health, Canadian Tire, General Amherst High School and Joe Meloche Ford brought in hundreds of toys, which were them given to Goodfellows to distribute to families along with their food baskets Dec. 20.

Amherstburg Fire and Rescue employees went out into the community to gather toys from their multiple drop off locations Dec. 20. One of their stops was at General Amherst High School, where students came together to collect piles of toys to donate to the cause.

“Some of them I deliver myself because some of the families aren’t able to drive to pick them up so I get to play Santa and go and deliver several of the packages on Wednesday or Thursday,” said Stock. “It’s awesome, some of the families are in tears with joy, it’s just an amazing feeling to help people out. We look forward to people helping every year and it shows how much people care about others.”

Amherstburg Police toy drive sees increased numbers



By Ron Giofu


The Amherstburg Police toy drive has concluded for another year and its not just the police officers involved who are excited.

The Amherstburg Police Service partnered with Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) and Mealtime Express’ “Secret Santa” program for the toy drive with distribution of the toys taking place last week.

“We have 79 children and 39 families,” explained ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo.

Const. Nathan Harris, who helps organize the toy drive annually with wife Ashleigh, said families were chosen through referrals as well as those who have used services and programs offered by ACS.

“We almost doubled the numbers from last year,” said ACS’ community awareness and fundraising co-ordinator.

The Amherstburg Police toy drive, run in conjunction with Mealtime Express’ Secret Santa program and Amherstburg Community Services (ACS), concluded this week. Top row: ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo and Const. Nick D’Amore. Bottom row: Const. Nathan Harris (with Hudson Harris) and Ashleigh Harris.

“I think people are more aware of the program now,” added Nathan. “People have used it and have reached out to friends and family.”

The Secret Santa Benefit Dinner held last month at Mealtime Express raised $9,270.50 towards the initiative.

Both Nathan and Ashleigh Harris as well as Const. Nick D’Amore helped distribute the toys last week, in conjunction with ACS. Arrangements were made with Amherstburg Community Services and families were aware that the toys were being delivered, said Nathan.

Ashleigh added that all parties are very thankful to the community with Nathan pointing out that the town always pulls together to help people in need.

“Once again, the community has shown its generosity,” added DiBartolomeo.

Secret Santa Benefit Dinner popular again at Mealtime Express



By Ron Giofu


Mealtime Express once again gave people a chance to have a chicken dinner and help local children at the same time.

The ninth Secret Santa Benefit Dinner was held Sunday evening at the Sandwich St. S. restaurant with the public responding favourably again in 2017. The final total of what was raised amounted to $9,270.50.

“We’ve pretty much sold all the tickets,” said Norm Mickle, who owns the restaurant with wife Janet.

Mickle said they have had businesses come forwarded with a wide variety of raffle prizes, adding Mealtime Express is very grateful.

“Everyone is volunteering their time,” he said. “We’ve donated the restaurant and the food and all of the proceeds go to local kids.”

The Secret Santa Benefit Dinner was held Sunday night at Mealtime Express. Staff volunteered their time to be there and were joined by Santa & Mrs. Claus. It is a partnership between Mealtime Express, the Amherstburg Police Service and ACS.

Once again this year, Mealtime Express teamed with Amherstburg Community Services (ACS) and the Amherstburg Police Service on the toy drive aspect of the Secret Santa program. ACS helps buy and distribute the goods with Amherstburg police also assisting with a toy drive as well. Mickle said they are happy with the partnership.

The Secret Santa program has been a big success in Amherstburg in its first eight years, he added.

“We’ve helped 200 families and over 500 kids over the first eight years,” said Mickle. “Local kids have received over 3,000 gifts right off of their Christmas lists. It’s actually gifts the kids want for Christmas.”

Mickle called the program “a real community affair” and now team with ACS and Amherstburg police after handling it themselves the first number of years.

“Everyone has their role. It’s perfect,” said ACS executive director Kathy DiBartolomeo. “It’s a great partnership between the three of us. It only helps us get bigger and reach more families.”

Const. Nathan Harris, who helps organize the Amherstburg police toy drive with the aid of wife Ashleigh, said it is in its fourth year with the first three having gone well. Harris said the community seems to have rallied behind the toy drive and they have been able to help a good number of families in Amherstburg.

“We’re hoping to be as successful, if not more, this year and to continue to spread Christmas cheer,” added Harris.