Hampers full of toys await pickup during the Salvation Army’s Christmas Hamper Drive. — Bailey Sutherland/Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/Daily Herald Bailey Sutherland, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

By: Bailey Sutherland, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Salvation Army is spreading joy to Prince Albert families this holiday season with their annual Christmas toy hamper drive and Major Charlotte Dean said they couldn’t have done it without the overwhelming generosity of the community.

“We’re extremely thankful to the people that have been donating to the Santa Anonymous campaign. Some guy [also] came with a bunch of teddy bears today and of course, to the Malcolm Jenkins Foundation,” said Dean.

For the past 60 years, the Prince Albert Optimist Club has been collecting new unwrapped toys for Santa Anonymous, which are then donated to the Salvation Army and are distributed inside the Christmas hampers. According to the PA Optimist Club website, 1,200 to 2,000 toys are donated annually to Prince Albert families.

The Salvation Army has seen a substantially higher number of applications for hampers this year, Dean estimated that anywhere between 1,200 to 1,400 children will be receiving toys through their program this Christmas.

“This year in particular is really difficult,” said Dean. “Prices have gone up, [including] prices for toys. We were thinking, oh $25 a kid, we should be able to get Lego… not a chance. Everything that we used to think was a $25 toy, is now like $40-$45. So that’s what we’re facing, and a lot of parents are facing. The price of food has gone up, the price of gas has gone up. Everything has gone up. It’s just really hard.”

Thanks to a contribution of $25,000 from The Malcolm Jenkins Foundation, the Salvation Army was able to meet the needs of all who registered for a hamper despite the dramatic increase in toy costs due to inflation.

“It’s huge,” said Dean, “but it certainly doesn’t buy them all.”

Gift hamper pick-ups began Monday morning at the Gateway Mall and will continue until next week. All families that signed up will receive one larger item per child and one smaller stocking stuffer of their choice. According to Dean, each day they have around eight families scheduled to pick up every half an hour.

She noted that it’s important for families to feel the community behind them, especially during the holidays.

“Sometimes people say, ‘clothing, food, shelter… Where does toys fall into that? It’s not a need.’ Yes, it is a need,” Dean said. “It’s important that people feel that they’re a good parent, it’s important for them to feel a part of the community, it’s important for children to feel that they’re not the only kid in school that didn’t get a toy.

“It’s for people’s social wellbeing, knowing that they’re a part of the community and they’re able to do this for their children,” she added. “Whether it’s just an extra boost, or it may be the only thing that their children are receiving. We don’t know, we don’t really ask questions.”

As more applications for gift hampers roll in throughout the week, donations for toys will be accepted right up until Dec. 18.