This has been a really hard year. Actually, that’s an understatement for a lot of people and small businesses out there. But when tough times come around, the beauty of human compassion and giving is able to shine so much brighter.
This pandemic has created a great need. People have experienced reduced wages, job losses. Businesses have been floundering and others have had to close their doors. It hasn’t been easy for many Londoners. The need for support has been immense.
With COVID’s safety measures in place, giving and donating has looked different this year than it has in previous years. Drive-by-donation giving, masked handoffs, virtual fund-raising campaigns have shown London’s ingenuity and adaptability as local businesses and Londoners have figured out safe ways to get and give donations in a year when they are very much needed.
Incredibly, local businesses and Londoners have come together to show an over pouring of the generosity of time and money to help out those in need. Take a look at how local businesses and Londoners are giving back in unprecedented amounts this year.
The Grand Theatre
One tradition that Londoners can expect around the holidays is The Grand Theatre’s holiday show. Every year they put on an incredible production and collect donations for the London Food Bank. With The Grand Theatre being closed down this year, due to the pandemic, they could have just taken the year off. Instead, The Grand Theatre came up with a beautiful solution.
On December 22nd at 7 pm, The Grand Theatre will be hosting a FREE virtual event, Comfort And Joy. They’re encouraging donations from those who are able. The donations will support the London Food Bank. The virtual show will be a 45-minute event filled with holiday songs, stories, and music!
You can watch an incredible holiday performance from the comfort of your own home. Put on your festive pyjamas, make some hot cocoa with mini marshmallows, turn on the Christmas lights, and watch this beautiful performance with your loved ones. And if you’re able, donate.
To find out more or to register for this event, click here.
Business Cares Food Drive
Business Cares Food Drive is a charity that is made up of local businesses who organize food drives, charity events, and raise money to help feed those in need (around 7,000 people per month and 39% of those people are under the age of 17). Through donations, they’re able to have fresh fruit and vegetables grown, purchase milk and eggs, buy baby food, and buy shelf-stable food for families and Londoners who cannot afford to feed themselves. Their slogan, “taking care of business means taking care of people”, really captures the heart of the organization. It’s businesses coming together to support the community that supports them.
This year, there are over 90 local businesses involved, volunteering their time, money, and energy to help raise money and food for this incredibly worthy cause.
To kick-off 2020’s holiday events, the London Chamber of Commerce donated a hefty $50,000.
In the first weekend of December, the Business Cares Food Drive took to the grocery stores. Volunteers from local London businesses spent their weekend, out in the cold, masked up, organizing a huge food haul. They handed out brown bags to people as they entered the grocery stores, asking for food donations. Then they collected and organized the donations.
The grocery store weekend showed off London’s giving hearts as over 140,000 pounds worth of food was collected, which is 22% more than was collected in 2019. COVID-weary, tired, and anxious 2020 Londoners showed incredible generosity in one weekend.
Southside Group and Toys R Us Toy Haul
This year, Southside Group and Toys R Us partnered up in early December to donate toys to families in desperate need. They loaded up 12 pallets of toys to give to Anova, Million Services, Salvation Army, Toys for Tots, and the Children’s Health Foundation. There are so many families this year who have found themselves jobless or with limited income. No child should have to wonder what they did wrong to make Santa not bring them a gift.
The Raceway’s Drivers Holiday Challenge
On December 20th, Scott Wray and Bob McClure will be racing at The Raceway for the Drivers Holiday Challenge. The winner of the event will donate all of their earnings to Toys for Tots. The Raceway will also match the drivers’ donations. The Raceway is part of London’s Western Fair District.
Granger’s Yard & Snow Gives Away Christmas Lights
This year, many homes will be decking out their outside for the holidays. It’s been a way of coping with the anxieties, unknowns, and fears that COVID brought throughout 2020. Mat Granger of Grander’s Yard and Snow posted on social media, asking people to nominate families that really were having a rough go of things and could use a little festive cheer. Mat then gave away and installed Christmas lights for some of those families. Others, such as friends of his and Burke Flowers, also gave gifts to those families in need.
Early Riser Donating Percentage Of Every Take Out Order
Local restaurant owner, Brad Dieslop, is supporting front-line workers and the community. For every take-out order from his restaurant, Early Riser Cafe, he donates 10% to the London Food Bank. Also, 100% of his tips are donated to the London Food Bank as well. Within just 4 days he was able to collect $400 through the tips and take-out orders to donate as Londoners are quick to support small businesses like Early Riser that support the community.
With so many restaurants under severe restrictions, many washrooms have been closed to the public. Many first responders, delivery drivers, and transit workers rely on larger chain restaurants’ washrooms throughout their workday. With that not being possible this year, Early Riser Cafe is opening its washrooms for them. He also provides front-line workers with free coffee, water, and juice.
519 Pursuits’ Helping The Homeless
With the nights getting colder and colder, London’s homeless population is at risk. 519 Pursuit is a company dedicated to helping London’s homeless community. The volunteer workers drive around and deliver hot lunches, hats, coats, winter gloves, batteries, and more to those who live on the streets. But it’s not just that. It’s also the humanity that they offer to those who so desperately need it: a simple conversation and time spent listening. Check out this Londoner’s story as he was once living on the streets at 13 and now volunteers with 519 Pursuits.
London Knights Gathering Toys And Cans
Be A Fan, Bring A Can was contactless this year. Every year, fans of the London Knights head to the Budweiser Gardens and participate in the Be A Fan, Bring A Can event at the December Knights’ game and raise money to support the London Food Bank and Business Cares Food Drive. This year London Knights’ fans have gone without packed arenas and live games to cheer at. Without a game to host the annual event at, the London Knights had to get creative. They partnered with Finch Auto Group and held drive-through donation events at multiple dealerships throughout the city.
Another tradition at the London Knights’ games is the “Teddy Bear Toss” where fans throw teddy bears and toys on the ice to be collected and donated. Again, with things looking different this year, the London Knights adapted. London Knights & Spectra Cenu Management organized a drive-through “teddy bear toss” collecting 1781 teddy bears as well as hundreds of hats and mitts. These items will be donated to the Salvation Army to be distributed to those in need.
For the five years in a row Project Santa has hosted drives to gather winter clothing, such as hats, mitts, coats, and boots, for children in need. This year has been no different, with St. Peter Basilica, The London Police Association, and Columbia Sportswear teaming up and purchasing $3,750 worth of winter items for Project Santa. Giant Tiger also donated to the cause.
Santa was joined by London Police to deliver Christmas bags full of winter gear to schools. The London Police department works closely with the schools to identify families most in need and ensures that those students receive their Christmas joy from Project Santa.
One-Stop Holiday Drop
There are many worthy charities to donate to this year: Toys for Tots, London Food Bank, and Business Cares Food Drive. Rather than driving around the city to the various drop off points being hosted by Local London businesses, Virgin Radio hosted the One-Stop Holiday Drop. Londoners could head to the Tourism London Welcome Center on Wellington Street and drop off food, toiletries, and toy donations
CP Train Virtual Event
Every year Canadian Pacific hosts a magical event that brings in thousands of donations for food banks. The CP Holiday Train pulls into cities, hosts a giant concert, and is a magical Christmas experience for many. The price for that magic? A donation to food banks. Since concerts are not a thing this year, and the experience would be unsafe with COVID, Canadian Pacific decided to host “Holiday Train at Home”, a virtual event!
The spirit of the Holiday Train was alive and well with performances from JoJo Mason, Logan Staats, and Kelly Prescott, and the headliners Serena Ryder and The Trews. CP will be donating $1.24 million to the 201 food banks that normally host the CP Holiday Train event. Anyone who attended the event was encouraged to also donate to their local food bank if they were able to.
The Merry Market is the embodiment of the Spirit of Christmas. Located at 100 Kellogg Lane, a charming market has opened up with 75 local vendors to shop from as you wind your way through the festive atmosphere. There is no charge to enter the market, but anyone attending is encouraged to bring in donations. The Merry Market supports shopping local businesses this holiday season as well as supporting and giving back to those in need within the community.
To make the donation process more fun and festive, they’ve had themes each week. The first week, visitors were encouraged to bring in their favourite box of Kellogg’s cereal. The second week was toy week, collecting gifts for children in need. Week three will be a theme for personal hygiene products, which is often overlooked when people donate but is so important.
Check out our video on the Merry Market here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGxC1j4qMMM
The Salvation Army’s Fill The Kettle
Every year, Londoners volunteer their time to run the time-honoured-tradition of the Salvation Army Kettle. This year, Londoner’s volunteered to mask up and keep social distancing measures in place as people donated. Local stores that hosted the Kettles helped them establish social distancing measures and practices within the stores and malls.
Ricky Ratchet’s Toys
The owner of Ricky Ratchets Auto Repair has been gathering toys to donate to the Salvation Army. He’s also been encouraging customers that want to help to donate gift cards or cash. Rick said that his clients have been incredibly generous this year.
With everything that is going on in the world right now, people need to support one another. Compassion, empathy, and giving hearts is what is going to get us through this Pandemic. There are so many people in need with so much loss and change this year. Luckily, we live in a city that is filled with generous hearts.
Local businesses and Londoners alike are coming together to find unique ways to make sure that we’re not only still giving this year, but we’re giving in unprecedented ways. COVID restrictions and all, London is giving back this season in a really big way.
As we go forward into the last days of the holiday season, we just want to say thank you to every local business and every Londoner that has shown the true spirit of Christmas. Keep supporting local. Keep giving back. Keep spreading hope and joy.