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Toy Mountain has many locations across the city where toys can be dropped off. Image: Rame Abdulkader/Fulcrum.
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COVID-19 has created new needs while simultaneously putting enormous pressure on holiday charities

It’s not for nothing that December is considered the season of giving. Charitable donations greatly increase during the holidays. In fact, 30 per cent of annual charity givings are made in December. 

However, COVID-19 has created new needs while simultaneously putting enormous financial pressure on charities. Many campaigns are having to cancel their usual programs and fundraising events out of concern for public safety. 

Since the onset of the pandemic, charities have experienced on average a 30 per cent drop in revenue, with 69 per cent of charities reporting a decrease in donations. The sorry truth is that, in a year of economic hardship, fewer Canadians have money to spare for charity. 

Holiday charities have been adapting to provide socially distanced avenues to donate in person while expanding their online giving options. Imagine Canada found that 42 per cent of charities have created new programs, and 54 per cent have transitioned online since the beginning of the pandemic.

One Christmas campaign almost synonymous with the holidays is the Salvation Army’s Christmas Kettles Campaign. COVID-19 has taken a major toll on the more than a century old campaign; there has been a decline in foot traffic, fewer kettles have been mobilized and there has been a decrease in volunteers (who are typically older and at greater risk). While donations can still be made online, Rogers Communications and tiptap are providing a touchless giving option for in-person donations. The tiptap units can be used with debit or credit cards and are pre-set to donate $5 with an option to increase the donation if desired.

Another well-known holiday campaign, Opération Nez Rouge, has had to suspend its holiday season drive-home program for the first time in its 36-year history. Nonetheless, the organization continues its annual publicity campaign warning of the hazards of impaired driving and the importance of responsible drinking.

A new digital awareness campaign under the theme: ‘Take control of your safety!’ has everything from an alcohol-free cocktail recipe, a personalized photo frame for Facebook, signature elements for the designated driver, tips and tricks to prevent someone from driving impaired and much more. Nez Rouge has created an online donation platform to finance its campaign and operations.

For 50 years, the Ottawa Professional Firefighters Association has been organizing the Help Santa Toy Parade and collecting toys along the parade route for distribution to children in Ottawa — the parade is responsible for about 40 per cent of the toys donated to Toy Mountain.

Like many other events this year, the parade was cancelled in the name of public safety. Instead, the association began selling masks to raise funds. The masks are three-ply, made in Ontario, and branded with the HSTP logo. They are sold at $18 apiece. 

Toy Mountain still has many locations across the city where new toys can be dropped off. The campaign organizers have assured families in need that “Santa’s helpers will do the sanitizing.”

In the face of tremendous obstacles, charitable campaigns across all sectors are adapting and doing exemplary work to continue fulfilling their missions. This is not the time for their outreach to slip during a year when so many have suffered losses to the pandemic — so please donate.