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A Little Relief goes a long way to provide the best Christmas possible

Group of Christmas angels will make sure 42 children get toy baskets this year
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Just some of the toys being distributed to area children through A Little Relief. Facebook photo

They're just good people looking to make sure some area children have the best Christmas possible.

A Little Relief is the name of an informal local group of people, connected through a Facebook page, that collects donations and use their own money to provide toy baskets to area children whose family might not be able to provide as much.

There are 42 children from 19 families who will be getting a toy basket courtesy of A Little Relief this Christmas.

"It was my friend's idea. She just said 'why don't we start helping people who need help,'" said Cheryl Steffer, one of the three women behind the group. "It's just been really a good thing. We just try to help as much as we can."

This is the third year they have done it. They also distribute Easter baskets to children and have donated to several area charitable efforts as well.

A Little Relief isn't affiliated with a charity or church, it's just some humble individuals and their donators who want to help out.

They don't advertise other than spreading the word on Facebook and they are a little reluctant to have the spotlight on them. Two of the three organizers didn't want their names to appear in this story and none of them wanted to pose for a photo.

"As long as you ask for help, we're going to help you," said Steffer, one of three women behind the effort that includes many more donors.

"We just want to help whoever asks for help," Steffer said. "We've had some families that we've helped since year one, every Christmas and every Easter, but there's always new people."

Steffer and her best friend started the group, funding it themselves.

"We thought we'd help four or five families but we ended up with 15," she said. "We maybe got $100 worth of donations then we did the rest."

Last year a person came into the group last year who has been deft at helping get more donations.

"She's really good at getting out there and getting friends and family to donate," Steffer said.

"This year has been really cool because we've had a lot of people that we don't even know donating too us."

The A Little Relief Facebook group is up to 625 members.

One of the families is in Kitchener and one in Fergus. The rest are in Guelph.

"This year we've had a couple of people we've helped in the past that didn't need help this year and they've donated back to us, which is really sweet," she said.

Steffer said they don't have the same kind of screening process that other organizations do, but they're not interested in turning people away.

"We want these kids to have the best Christmas possible. We don't mind if they want to go to another place and get other hampers. We encourage them to do the best that they can for their children."

The people needing a little help often reach out through the Facebook page. Some are through informal references.

"Most people are people we've helped in the past or somebody will suggest someone, maybe a neighbour or a cousin," Steffer said.

They join the Facebook group and ask for the help, providing a list of toys their child or children want.
Some cross-posting in other area Facebook groups has been helpful.

This year's hampers are complete and will be delivered shortly.

There is between $150 to $250 worth of items per child in the baskets. Items range from traditional toys to video games to comforters and snowsuits.

"There is a little bit of clothing requested, but mostly it's toys. Some have asked for Paw Patrol or LOL bedding."

The items are all requested by the children and families, making sure it is all wanted. Items are listed on the group's Facebook page and people can choose items off the list to donate.

A Little Relief relies on honesty and goodwill in running the program.

Steffer said only once was there an issue, when they noticed some toys they had distributed were being sold on online auction sites. But that was an isolated incident.

Otherwise, she said, everyone is "so happy and extremely appreciative" of the gift baskets.


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Tony Saxon

About the Author: Tony Saxon

Tony Saxon has had a rich and varied 30 year career as a journalist, an award winning correspondent, columnist, reporter, feature writer and photographer.
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