Be an ‘Angel’ to a local child in need this Christmas

Winchester BMR co-owner Ken Boje and the Angel Tree at the store (in 2018). Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

Winchester BMR one of a number of Angel Tree sites craving your contribution this season

WINCHESTER — Plenty of paper-plate cards still adorn the angel tree at Winchester BMR — each indicating a child in need of a gift this Christmas season.

Angel Tree Gift Suggestions
Ages 0-3 – Bath toys, sippy cups, soft toys, stuffed animals, large building blocks, character plates, bowls and spoons
Ages 4-6 – Dolls, doll clothing, trucks, simple craft supplies, games, colouring books and crayons or markers, soccer balls and other outdoor toys, remote control vehicles, Lego, Play-Doh, toy food
Ages 7-10 – Games, puzzles, more intricate art supplies, remote control vehicles, soccer balls and other outdoor toys, Lego, journal with colourful pens, puzzle books
Ages 11-14 – Gift cards (Chapters, Wal-Mart, Giant Tiger, Tim Horton’s, etc.), jewelry, watches, cozy socks or slippers, more difficult board games, nail polish, journal with colourful pens, puzzle books, ear phones
Ages 15-18 – Gift cards, jewelry, watches, hygiene gift packs, makeup, makeup brushes and cases, magazines, other beauty products, ear phones
General Suggestions – Hat and mitt sets, cozy blankets, ball caps, hair accessories, books and puzzles, fun socks, movies, pajamas, bubble bath/bath bombs

Winchester BMR co-owner Ken Boje is in the thick of his annual charitable efforts assisting the North Dundas Christmas Fund’s food hamper and snowsuit campaigns — not to mention Project Warmth and Heat for the Holidays. And the Angel Tree is one of the first visible reminders to patrons of these endeavours as they enter the County Rd. 31 store.

Children’s gifts generated through the Angel Tree effort go into the hampers — aka Christmas baskets — distributed to local families in the lead-up to Dec. 25. Gifts are tailored to the age and sex of each child in the involved families, which is how the Angel Tree works: Pick a card off the tree, buy a gift for the indicated child, then come back and leave it under the tree (you’re not expected to buy the gift at BMR). In the end, the items collected at Boje’s business and other affiliated Angel Tree sites — such as those at local banks and Winchester District Memorial Hospital — are collected and put into the hampers. Volunteers gather at temporary depots in Chesterville, Winchester and South Mountain to assemble the final packages on the evening before distribution.

New this year, Winchester BMR’s Angle Tree display has laminated copies of a takeaway list with gift ideas to make the gift-buying process as simple as possible. “People would kind of come in, and they would ask the staff, ‘What can we get?” Boje recalls of earlier campaigns.

That can be especially true of children in their teenaged years, he points out, a group perceived as being harder to buy for. He adds that Winchester BMR’s Angel Tree includes a better cross-section of all age ranges this year, including the youngest children that are perceived as being easier to buy for. (See the list of suggested Angel Tree gifts further below.)

As of last weekend, 83 out of 89 cards remained on the tree but the boughs on the artificial spruce appeared a little less heavy this weekend (but still plenty to go).

Meanwhile, Boje’s operation continues to be a key clearing house for other facets of the North Dundas Christmas Fund.

In the storeroom out back, dozens of plastic totes are stuffed with snowsuits that will be given away, at cost, as they are gradually funded through donations collected at the store. Some of the suits will go out with the Christmas baskets; others are distributed earlier or later in the winter on an as-needed basis.

Dozens of containers stuffed with snowsuits destined for charitable distribution, stored at Winchester BMR. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

The businessman recalls that when he first became involved, organizers were always chasing after snowsuit sales and buying them here and there, where they could, at various retail establishments, all the while hoping they wouldn’t be sold out. Boje persuaded them it made a lot more sense to have him buy all the suits wholesale, in one shot, using his retail connections. Procured by Boje through Giant Tiger’s head office, the suits technically go into Winchester BMR’s inventory (although the store doesn’t actually sell snowsuits) and flow out of that inventory as donations come in. No profit is collected on the suits, and those not funded are stored away and rolled forward into the next year’s campaign.

“It doesn’t really cost me, other than some space and some time,” he says, modestly. “And yeah, there’s a little bit of financing to carry the inventory, but on the big picture, it doesn’t really cost us, and it makes a huge difference for the organization.”

“Last year we gave out over 200 suits,” Boje says, explaining he actually stocks about 450 units to ensure a broad enough size selection to choose from in any given year “Because you never know what sizes you’ll need  that year.”

“And because I’m buying in big enough volume, it helps us keep our pricing down.”

He credits Craig Packaging in Iroquois for donating the cardboard boxes used for distributing the suits.

Winchester BMR’s charitable clearinghouse approach also serves the community well this time of year as Boje flows at-cost artificial heating logs and window kits into the respective Heat for the Holidays and Project Warmth campaigns.

He says the store also donates directly to support Christmas hampers for four families.

Hoping to broaden the appeal of the North Dundas Christmas Fund even into Ottawa, Boje would like to see more publicity for the organization’s ongoing efforts, noting that some of the supproting service clubs are noticing that donation dollars seem scarcer this year. Also adding to the financial challenge is the withdrawal of a matching-dollar donation program previously offered for years by Scotiabank, he observes.

Craig Packaging donated these cardboard boxes for the North Dundas Christmas hamper snowsuit campaign. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

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