The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the Chatham Goodfellows to shift gears, but the volunteer organization hasn’t missed a beat delivering on its annual No Child Without A Christmas pledge.
Limited to 50 people due to COVID restrictions, a group of seasoned volunteers, along with some new, younger faces, were busy Saturday packing 1,600 food boxes that will go to Chatham-Kent residents in need.
The crew also prepared 1,600 toy packages that will be delivered with the food boxes this week.
“We will be handing out food and toys at the same time. Normally, we don’t do that,” said Tim Mifflin, a longtime Goodfellow. “Considering the challenges with COVID-19 this year, we’re very pleased with the way things went.”
Mifflin said the Goodfellows were “very blessed” to have the use of the massive former National Grocers warehouse on Richmond Street, which allowed for both the toy and food operations of the campaign to be completed under one roof.
Scott Williston, director of food packing and delivery, said assembling the 1,600 boxes is the most he’s ever done during his years with the Goodfellows.
Estimating the need is up between 15 to 20 per cent, he acknowledged the service club’s “great volunteers.”
Williston also apologized to the other volunteers who couldn’t help due to COVID restrictions.
“Chatham-Kent never surprises me,” he said about the community response to the greater need during the pandemic. “The people have always been very giving to the Goodfellows.”
Jessica Osborne, who is charge of organizing the food packing, said the Goodfellows were putting “a lot more food” in this year’s boxes because of that greater need.
She said families will still receive a turkey on the side when they pick up their package, but the space it would have taken in the box is now filled with extra cereal, crackers and other snacks.
During the previous 65 years of the Goodfellows campaign, toys and food have been delivered by an enthusiastic legion of volunteers.
However, this year, the bulk of food and toys will be picked up at the Richmond Street warehouse where the Goodfellows operation is now located.
The pickup takes place Monday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“There will be no contact. (People) don’t have to get out, –we’ll put it right in the car for them,” Williston said.
People have been given an assigned time for their pickup to avoid creating a crowd at the warehouse, he added.
Some deliveries will still take place on Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m to 6 p.m. for those who don’t have transportation, Mifflin said.
If anyone has questions, they can call the Goodfellows office at 519-354-1146 or sent an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.