Hay River will be hearing the call of the sirens on Saturday as the RCMP and the Hay River Fire Department collect donations for their fourth-annual Toy Drive.
Each year in December, the RCMP – and as of last year, the fire department – collect toys and money donations to deliver to families who may not otherwise have much for Christmas.
Const. Matt Halstead of the RCMP, who will be participating in this year’s Toy Drive, said Hay River is the only detachment that collects for charity this way.
“Past members here started this to try to help families in the community that are struggling at this time of year,” he said.
Halstead said the RCMP has a list of families in need.
“We have families we’ve identified through our involvement in the community, as well as some from social services,” he said.
RCMP Const. Mike Pudsey recalled that last year’s response was overwhelming.
“Our mess hall looked like a Toys ‘R’ Us workshop,” he said.
Last year, the RCMP, the firefighters and their extra volunteers worked for 30 hours sorting, wrapping and delivering all the donations.
“It’s great to see the involvement of the community,” said Halstead. “The amount of donations was unbelievable for a town this size.”
The constables and firefighters will set out in their emergency vehicles with the sirens on so people know to get their donations ready. As people come out their doors, the elves – volunteers from the schools – jump out of the trucks to collect the donations.
Halstead said, in previous years, the RCMP would deliver the donations to the families on Christmas Eve. This year, Super A Foods has offered 100 turkey dinners at cost, so the donation packages will be delivered on Dec. 20 to allow the families time to prepare their meals. There will also be a round-up option at Super A to help the RCMP cover the cost of the turkeys.
Halstead said, last year, personally delivering the donations to the families was a rewarding experience.
“People were happy for it, and the kids were really excited,” he said.
The Mounties aim to deliver one present for each child in each family on their list.
Donations may include new or gently-used toys, as well as money. If gifts are already wrapped, Halstead requests that people mark down the age category and gender to which the gift would best appeal.
The Toy Drive is set for Saturday, Dec. 12.
The RCMP and Hay River Fire Department vehicles will be making their rounds for collections from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., or will also come by for a requested pickup.