A large food, toy, and clothing drive in Chatham-Kent this holiday season collected between $1.5 million and $2 million, according to one organizer.
The Gift volunteers collected donations on November 20, 2021 to be distributed to needy families until Christmas.
Spokesperson Brent Wilken said the final tally is a broad estimate, but he believes approximately 20,000 people and between 80 and 100 groups were helped. Wilken said groups such as the Chatham-Kent Women's Shelter, Rock Missions, Street Help, Hope Haven, Chatham Goodfellows, Salvation Army, Chatham-Kent Children's Services, and Chatham-Kent Victim Services were helped along with Outreach for Hunger, Big Brothers-Big Sisters, and several churches.
Wilken is glad more people got help given the fact that more donors were busier than last year when a lockdown was in effect.
"Myself and I think a lot of people that were heavily involved are even more ecstatic on our most important metric, what we think this is all about. I think Chatham-Kent is a little bit more united than it was before," said Wilken. "This year especially compared to last year, we knew it was going to be a different beast. Some organizations didn't partake because they didn't have to or for different reasons they were doing their own fundraisers. So, we didn't get the feeling that the pot was going to be as big this year but we're pretty stoked about it."
Wilken said a last wish was also performed for a dying man in Blenheim. He said the family and volunteers decorated the family's home with Christmas lights and put up the tree. The family also opened their gifts from the Gift campaign afterwards.
Wilken also estimates 22 residents at the Chatham homeless shelter volunteered about 1,000 hours to help out from November 8, 2021 until Christmas Eve. He said the "radical decentralized but integrated structure" of the drive is autonomous and allows everyone to have authority and make decisions.
He said volunteers want to start planning the campaign earlier this year. He also wants to grow the campaign and improve the tracking of collections.