On Monday, the depot for 630 CHED Santas Anonymous opened its doors for the season with some new protocols in effect. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, things will look a little different for volunteers this year.
“Our goal is to keep volunteers and staff safe while making sure we’re able to keep the magic of Christmas alive for Santa’s kids,” Janine Foote, communications manager at Santas, said.
This year, Santas expects to prepare and deliver around 20,000 gift bags to children across Edmonton, which is a 15 per cent increase from last year.
Volunteering in the depot
Volunteers are a vital part of preparing the gifts that will go out on delivery days and the depot is accepting volunteers again this year; but there are some changes.
The first change is everyone coming in to the depot must wear a mask. Volunteers will have to fill out a pre-screening form before they are allowed to complete their shift.
Volunteers can sign up for shifts on the Santas website and are asked to show up no more than five minutes before their shift starts.
Inside the depot, volunteers will find sanitizer throughout the building as well as smaller groups at a time. In the gifting room, where volunteers pack the individual gift bags, all workstations have been assigned specific age groups and the stations have been distanced.
Stations will be disinfected between volunteer shifts and staff will disinfect the entire room at the end of each day with an electrostatic sprayer.
Volunteering for delivery days
In years past, those looking to deliver toys on delivery days just had to show up and wait in line. That led to hundreds of people in the depot at a time, so that will be impossible this year.
Instead, Santas is asking volunteers to sign up to deliver on delivery days which are Dec. 12 and 13 this year. Appointments will be available between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.
“We’ll need more help than ever on delivery days this year,” Foote said. “We need at least 1,000 drivers to be able to deliver to 10,000 homes.”
Santas will be doing a curbside pickup by appointment and will bring toy bags to load into delivery driver vehicles. Shifts will be available for signup starting on Dec. 1 and drivers can register online now.
“With so many changes we’re not sure what turnout will be like,” Foote said. “We also expect some drivers to be in self-isolation and unable to volunteer that day, so the more drivers we have registered the better.”
This year, drivers can take up to eight bags to deliver.
Don’t want to dispatch toys? Groups of four are going to be needed to get the gifts from the depot to people’s vehicles. Groups can sign up for those shifts online as well.
Donating to Santas
Donation boxes are already out in stores across the region. Boxes will be out in stores until Dec. 23. Donations can also be dropped off at Santas depot at 12122 68 Street from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the weekends.
Masks are required for anyone coming into the depot, even just to drop off a donation.
Donations will sit for 72 hours — seven days for plush toys — before volunteers sort the items. Due to a record-breaking teddy bear toss in 2019, Santas is set for plush toys this year and is asking for other donations.
A contactless donation can also be made online.
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