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Chalmers seeks 800 gift bags

Many in the city go without everyday items like shampoo and toothpaste
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Chalmers Community Services Centre is located on the first floor of 40 Baker Street. It is scheduled to move into the new 10C location on Carden Street in the New Year. Rob O'Flanagan/GuelphToday

The demand is larger, so Chalmers Community Services Centre is going bigger with its annual Christmas Gift Bag Campaign. It has been going for about 10 years.

Every winter there are more people coming into the agency in need of a pair of good warm gloves and socks, and a few personal items. Last year the agency, currently located at 40 Baker Street, received donations of over 600 gift bags, and distributed them to those in need.

This year, according to Chalmers administrator Diana Sterenberg, there is increased demand for the organization’s emergency food and clothing services. The target of this year’s Christmas Gift Bag Campaign is 800 bags.

“It’s an opportunity for guests to receive new toiletries, and also the warm gloves, the warm socks, and a couple of little Christmas treats,” Sterenberg said, adding that for many CCSC guests, the gift bag may be the only gift they receive at Christmas.

“There are no other Christmas programs in the city for adults that I’m aware of,” she said. “There are many for children.”

Chalmers is reaching out to local families and individuals to put together gift bags containing everyday items that most of us take for granted, but which many in the city routinely go without. 

The following good quality items in their original packages are sought: one pair of warm gloves, one pair of thick socks; regular size shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste and/or dental floss; shaving cream for men, a box of tampons or pads for women; shower gel, body wash or soap, as well as antiperspirant/deodorant; package of five to 10 disposable razors; boxed candy or boxed chocolate (not homemade); and a small jar of instant coffee, or a box of tea bags, or a tin or box of hot chocolate.

The deadline for donations is Friday Dec. 9th. Bags must be delivered to the brown door on the south side of 40 Baker Street downtown. Drop off hours are Tuesdays between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., Wednesdays between 5-8 p.m. and Fridays between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m.

“I think people see the list and they see that we are not offering Xboxes and flat-screen TVs,” Sterenberg said, explaining why the gift bag program has been so well supported. “We’re offering everyday items that are necessities for many people in Guelph, and not always provided by food pantries. Our guests are extremely appreciative of these gifts.”

Visitors to the Chalmers location are normally there to access the food pantry, Sterenberg said. Among them are the working poor, the under-employed, disabled persons, students and seniors.

“They’re coming in for food, for clothing and household items, to have clothing or knapsacks mended, or for referrals,” she said.

Over the past three years there has been a 300 per cent increase in the number of people accessing the organization’s services at its west location at 577 Willow Road. The high need there is linked to the high immigrant population in the neighbourhood. There has also been an increase in the downtown location.

For more information about donating to Chalmers’ Christmas Gift Bag Campaign contact Sarah Dermer, the program and volunteer coordinator at  519-822-8778 or  

Chalmers is one of the organizations scheduled to relocate to the new 10C building at 42 Carden Street when it opens in the coming months.