When Revel broker Jessie MacDonald started the NOTL Gives Back charity drive 14 years ago, she was simply doing her part to help out the community.
MacDonald told The Lake Report that she was teaching at the time and came to realize that many families struggle during this time of the year – often not having enough food to eat and clothes to wear – and some couldn’t afford Christmas presents for their young ones.
“I basically wanted to make sure that everybody – all the kids – had a toy Christmas morning,” she said.
Since then, the food, clothing and toy drive has been a holiday staple in the community and returned again on Saturday to collect goods at the Meridian Credit Union Arena.
Collections are currently dispersed between Newark Neighbours and McMaster Children’s Hospital.
“I have a personal connection (to McMaster) and it’s a good cause,” MacDonald said. “I think it hits home to a lot of people.”
The children’s hospital provided potentially life-saving services for both of MacDonald’s children when she gave birth, she said.
“When I was pregnant, I had a condition which I did not know I had until I underwent an emergency C-section,” MacDonald said.
“I gave birth to two not-so-healthy children and they made them healthy and – in my opinion – saved their lives.”
Cindy Grant, the director of Newark Neighbours, said the community of NOTL never fails to come out with extreme generosity during these drives.
“This is the second or third time we’ve partnered with the Town of NOTL and NOTL Gives Back and we’re happy to be here,” she said.
Grant said that after nearly two weeks of food drives around the community, shelves at Newark are well-stocked, but there are some items that they are especially in need of, including coffee and paper towels, tissues and toilet paper.
“It isn’t the first thing that comes to mind, but it’s something that we always need,” Grant said.
Along with the town, Revel Realty, the Fine Estates Team and Team MAC Inc, NOTL Gives Back also teamed up with the NOTL Minor Hockey Association.
Tania Fera-VanGent, the hockey association’s public relations lead, emphasized the importance of having young hockey players assist with collections.
“We want our young hockey players to understand the concept of giving back to the community,” she said.
“That’s the most important thing for the hockey association, to see not only that we’re giving but that they’re learning how to give.”