For 24-years the Waterloo Knights of Columbus (WKC) have run the New Toys for Needy Kids Toy Drive. With the dollar value of gifts given approaching 5 million dollars, Martin Hickey, Facility Manager of Waterloo Knights Inc., says he feels blessed. The toy initiative assists local hospices, hospitals, schools, Family and Children Services, Women's Crisis Centre, the Salvation Army, the Mennonite Central Committee and hundreds of local families during the Christmas season.
The current pandemic creates a situation Hickey and his team haven’t seen before, but they are adapting. The small, but mighty, delivery crew consists of just three people - Hickey, Paul Taylor, and his son Tristan. "I take the calls at the hall, I then contact the mom or dad, get the age of the child and of course the address and listen to their stories,” he said. To adhere to strict health and safety rules, deliveries only happen one day a week.
On Saturday, the WKC team spent the morning making deliveries and plan to do so during the entire duration of this crisis. Hickey says they phone the family just prior to transport, to ensure someone is home and the gift is placed on their porch. There is no contact whatsoever.
The stories he hears remain faceless, but Hickey says this isn’t a deterrent for him. “This gift of charity, it is who we are and what we do as members of the Knights of Columbus.” He says there is a larger team behind the toy drive that make his job seem easy. “I love being able to work with our Region of Waterloo community as we supply toys, diapers, baby clothing, winter clothing and movie passes to over 40 agencies and groups in our area.”
The toy drive happens year-round, with the bulk of donations happening during the giving season. “While we view the Christmas season as our main collection and distribution, we will assist all year long, to take care of their (local families and agencies) needs as best that we are able to,” said Hickey.
Unimaginable to most, for some families in the region, celebrating a birthday is a luxury – not an expectation. The goal is to relieve the financial pressure birthdays place on high-risk families - alleviating the need for parents to choose between food, housing and other expenses.
“There is a notice on Facebook at this time with a number to call. While we are here to serve, we must remember to follow all the health and safety rules in place. Therefore, we are not accepting any toys at this time as we are limiting the exposure of myself and my team, who are picking, packing and delivering the birthday presents.”
They are asking that only those families who are most in need contact WKC, “as we could be overwhelmed and then the real need is not served.” They are currently only able to supply gifts to children ages 1 through 12.
As an employee of a non-profit, Hickey feels the same strains that many local residents do, as organizations are forced to close their doors. He says he remains inspired by the stories he hears. “We are now seeing all sorts of incredible volunteerism with neighbours helping each other, and frontline health retiree's coming back to assist.”
He’s hopeful Waterloo Region will continue to produce stories of strangers caring for each other, and praying together.
Contact Waterloo Knights of Columbus and make a request for a new unwrapped toy here: https://columbusconferencecentre.com/contact-us