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Niagara-on-the-Lake
Monday, September 26, 2022
Town staff Give Back and choose charity over paid Christmas dinner
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What was supposed to be a gift for the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s staff has turned into a new tradition of giving back to the community.

“The town puts away a certain amount of money every year for Christmas dinner for the staff. (Last year) we told them we weren’t having a Christmas dinner,” Lord Mayor Betty Disero said at Newark Neighbours on Saturday.

They could have taken some gift coupons for themselves but decided instead to give it all to Newark Neighbours, the mayor said.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Gives Back is a donation drive organized by town staff to benefit Newark Neighbours.

“This year they decided to do it again. So, we are very appreciative of the staff,” Disero said.

And so in the midst of a global pandemic yet another new NOTL tradition of giving and helping others was born.

Disero said kind gestures like this help strengthen the sense of community in town and noted it is needed now more than ever.

“We’re still in COVID, people are still unable to make ends meet and with this new variant I’m not sure that it is going to get better or what will happen after Christmas,” she said.

“But, certainly town staff are behind the community and we love them for it. I’m sure our staff will want to help out Newark Neighbours every year.”

More than 1,100 pounds of warm winter clothes were donated along with cash, food, toys and hygeine products, town spokesperson Marah Minor said in an email to The Lake Report.

“It is always important to support one another, especially during the holiday season. Giving really is better than receiving,” she said.

Cindy Grant, manager of Newark Neighbours, said Christmas is usually the best time of the year for receiving donations.

There was a steady stream of cars dropping off goods last Friday, she said.

Grant thanked Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery, Crossroads Public School and King’s Point condominiums among some 20 other organizations that made bulk deliveries during the drive.

“People brought bins and cartons and SUV loads of stuff,” she said.

“I think I’m up to around 40 different organizations that are either donating food or gifts or monetary donations at this point. It just never ends, it’s beautiful. Just wonderful.”

A flurry of people were organizing donations at Newark Neighbours, but all the volunteers agreed on one thing: Mariitta Maavara has the biggest heart.

Maavara has been volunteering with Newark Neighbours since 2019, just before the pandemic hit.

“I believe that you always have to give back,” she said as she organized a trailer full of donations.

She felt drawn to Newark Neighbours as an organization that helps those in need in a place like NOTL.

“Let's face it, Niagara-on-the-Lake is a prosperous community on the whole but there are people who need help,” she said.

She said Newark Neighbours enables the spirit of giving in NOTL.

“It gives people a way to participate. People like to help but they may not know how or have the time to be able to do it,” she said.

Maavara is proud that Newark Neighbours does not waste any donations.

“If we can’t use it, we find a place to use it. You just can’t waste — waste not want not.”

“You know, the basic message of Christmas …” Maavara trailed off as tears filled her eyes and she took a moment to collect herself.

“The basic message of Christmas is peace and sharing,” she said tearfully.

When the other volunteers saw that Maavara was crying they all gathered around and gave her a big hug.

“They don’t come any more hardworking than her,” Grant said oof Maavara.

“She’s like an Energizer bunny.”