Angel Share Tree, Snowsuit Campaign, Project Warmth, Heat for the Holidays
WINCHESTER — Winter’s chill has descended on the area early this year, and with the dipping temperatures, local retailer Ken Boje has again turned Winchester BMR into a nexus of heart-warming charitable causes leading up to Christmas.
And he’s is in the thick of using the store’s space, carrying capacity and logistical knowhow to assist the North Dundas Christmas Fund’s food hamper and snowsuit campaigns — along with the House of Lazarus and Dundas County Food Bank’s Project Warmth and Heat for the Holidays. The latter two programs respectively supply fireplace logs and plastic window kits to households in energy poverty. All of these initiatives flow through the store at cost and are funded through donations; patrons may contribute at the counter after seeing the involved displays inside Winchester BMR.
But it’s the Angel Share Tree that serves as one of the first visible reminders of these endeavours inside County Rd. 31 and Holmes Rd. establishment. Make that trees, plural. This year, there are two — one for girls, one for boys. Each tree is festooned with angle-shaped cards with a written age and gender of a child. Shoppers at BMR are encouraged to pick a card off the tree, buy a gift for the indicated child, then come back and leave it under the tree.
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 “Christmas basket” hampers. Volunteers gather at temporary depots in Chesterville, Winchester and South Mountain to assemble the final packages on the evening before distribution.
Participants are not expected to buy their Angel Share Tree gift sat BMR, although Boje points out that the store has stocked up with a supply of children’s toys — conveniently placed around the trees — as a new retail offering this season.
While the toys are available for general purchase, that’s not the case with the snowsuits displayed in the store as part of the snowsuit campaign. They’re hanging near the entrance to show the public what they can sponsor on behalf of a child in need and at what price. The listed prices are good because, again, Boje sources them at wholesale cost and in bulk — in this case directly from Giant Tiger’s corporate warehouse. And yes, the suits are already being distributed because the need for warm clothing precedes Christmas, especially this year. Others will go out with the Christmas baskets as usual. An estimated 250 to 280 local children will ultimately wear snowsuits secured as part of this year’s campaign — up from the 200-plus of last year. To ensure the recipients receive the right-sized suits with their Christmas basket, the local businessman stocks many more suits than are distributed in any given year. The remainder top up the following year’s charitable inventory.
He credits Craig Packaging in Iroquois for donating the cardboard boxes used in distributing the suits.
Boje also plans for growth in the planned number of fireplace logs to be given away to families in need. Last year, Winchester BMR trucks rolled to 28 different addresses, most in the week before Christmas. This year, the number could be 45 households assisted if donations cover the logs, which Boje sources at cost thanks to a special arrangement with BMR headquarters. He noted that Winchester BMR itself is donating three skids of logs — each skid containing 84 boxes or roughly enough for one month’s heat — and eats the cost of delivering the entire distribution by truck.
This year’s expanded supply of Eco-Energy fireplace logs currently sits in two transport trailers in the Winchester BMR parking lot, up from last year’s single unit. “Ed Duncan at JED Express donated the use of his trailers,” Boje noted.
The store can also able to swap pellets for logs if necessary, according to the retailer, noting there was a request or two of this type last year as part of Heat for the Holidays.
“All of the beneficiaries are vetted by the charities, and confidentiality is respected,” he added.
For $63, patrons can buy a week’s worth of fireplace logs, for donation back to Heat for the Holidays — or $252 for a month’s supply. The logs are clean and deliver consistent heat from load to load, which, he notes, wouldn’t be the case with regular firewood (an idea he has explored but set aside for that reason.)
A $20 donation will provide window insulation kits for three families.
Though he doesn’t know who the recipient individuals are by name, Boje’s impression is that “a lot are the working poor or they’ve had health issues.”
In one case, he recounted, a man who needed the help one year has come back to buy a supply of fireplace logs.
“We’ve had clients come up and give us a hug,” he said, highlighting the satisfaction that comes with lending help at this time of year.
Visit Winchester BMR to see the opportunities for assisting those in need in your community.
Keep in mind that donations can be made at any of the following locations (and please call for more information): House of Lazarus (613-989-3830), Community Food Share (613-898-0781), and Winchester BMR (613-774-2700). HOL and CFS can give charitable receipts for your donations.