The Lake Cowichan Fire Department’s annual toy drive and fundraiser has developed such a reputation for itself, this year it attracted a large financial contribution from a regional industry leader.
On Friday and Saturday, volunteers from the fire department were outside Country Grocer in Lake Cowichan, receiving donations of toys and cash. Saturday morning they also accepted donations of non-perishable food items for the Lake Cowichan Food Bank in exchange for pancake and sausage breakfasts.
“It’s been a good turnout here,” said fire chief Doug Knott. “Last year was so miserable and rainy, so we were a little worried about that. But it is what it is. People know we’re here and they make the effort to come down.”
Knott was right, the inclement weather — snow instead of rain this year — did not appear to hinder attendance at the breakfast.
This was the ninth annual event. Steve Johnson is one of the organizers. He said the idea of doing a toy drive was “just something to help out the community” and give back.
“This is for the food bank this morning, the breakfast. We’ve raised $1,300 for the food bank in recent years and [approximately $18,000] for the community services over the nine years,” said Johnson.
Cowichan Lake Community Services assembles hampers of toys and household items for families in need around the lake and distributes them at Christmastime. The money raised and the goods donated through the toy drive go a long way to bolster the work of Community Services.
And this year, Timberwest provided a substantial donation to the cause: a cheque for $1,450, part of the funds raised through the company’s firewood permit program.
“So hopefully it’ll buy a lot of toys and make a lot of kids happy this Christmas,” said Monica Bailey, director of communications at TimberWest.
Bailey was in Lake Cowichan last month along with Domenico Iannidinardo, TimberWest’s vice president of sustainability and chief forester, to present five community organizations money from the program. The program involves selling $20 firewood permits for which community groups keep 50 per cent of the proceeds. Except this year, TimberWest decided to invest the other half back into the community through donations like these.
“We found all these different organizations and groups, non-profits, that are doing some amazing things out here and of course, Doug and Steve, the guys here at the fire department, have put this on for the last nine years. We just thought, ‘We’ve got this next little bit of cash coming from the firewood permits, it’s gotta go directly to the toy drive,’” said Bailey.
In 2016, TimberWest donated a total of $11,000 back into the community.
“I think the most impressive thing we see here in Lake Cowichan is just the community spirit,” said Bailey. “Seeing how many people have donated toys and some money, and the good spirit here, it’s just really nice to be a part of. We’re really proud of that.”