Christmas Amalgamated returns for 38th year

Providing toys and foods for needy families

A time-honoured charitable Kamloops tradition is back.

Christmas Amalgamated launched its 38 thyear this week with the opening of its storefront at the Brock Shopping Centre.

The space, formerly leased to Bodyworks Fitness Centre, was cleaned up by Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre inmates so Christmas Amalgamated could move in.

"We could not do this without them," said co-ordinator Sally Whitson.

The depot is now filled with boxes, tables and shelves loaded down with brand new toys, household supplies and clothes.

Most of the items were collected during motorcycle toy runs and other events throughout the year.

And organizers are preparing for many more donations in the weeks to come.

"This is just enough to cover families for the next few weeks," said Whitson on Friday.

Christmas Amalgamated began nearly four decades ago when the city's numerous service groups discovered they were tripping over each other while trying to supply Christmas toys and dinner fixings to needy families.

Now the groups align under one roof to provide a happy holiday season to nearly 2,000 families.

During its second year of operations, Whitson took the lead organizing role for the group, which eventually became an official charity run by a board of directors.

Families register in advance to pick from a set list of items depending on their need.

"The best thing is to let mothers choose because they know what their kids need, what kinds of toys are the best fit," said Whitson.

The earlier they register, the better, she said, since they can beat the crowds and avoid line-ups that can run 150 people deep.

Those who qualify for a Christmas dinner hamper, complete with turkey, will have it delivered by Dec. 20.

Over the years, Whitson has seen the need rise and expand to a demographic of working families as troubled economic times turned former donors into recipients.

"Last year was a very rough year," said Whitson. "We saw a lot of people sitting on the other end who never required help before."

Organizing Christmas Amalgamated is a year-long commitment for Whitson and she lets nothing get in the way.

Even when she sustained serious injuries in a bad fall on an uneven walkway in early autumn, she still attended a September toy run - albeit in a wheelchair.

And although still wearing a brace for her badly broken elbow today, she's back on her feet organizing 200 volunteers and making endless gift hampers.

Family registrations and donations are welcome at the Christmas Amalgamated depot at 15-1800 Tranquille Road between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., Monday to Friday.

For more information, call 250-376-0777.

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