The first Toys for Tots event held Friday morning in Abbotsford collected almost $16,000 in cash and more than 900 toys for the Abbotsford Food Bank and Christmas Bureau.
More than 500 people turned up for the event, which invited the public to drop off cash and/or toy donations in exchange for a free buffet breakfast.
Toys for Tots was held at the Ramada Plaza and Conference Centre in partnership with Envision Financial.
Food bank manager Dave Murray was overwhelmed by the turnout, saying organizers had expected perhaps 300 people.
“This is awesome. Thank you for the community support. This is what makes Abbotsford special,” he said as people streamed through the doors.
Murray said the event was modelled after the popular Christmas Wish Breakfast held every year at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver.
He met with Judy Sweeting, owner of the Ramada in Abbotsford, and Christine Lane, director of sales and marketing, over the summer to discuss the proposal.
They loved the idea, and over the following months several other sponsors came on board to help cover the costs so that all the proceeds could go to the Christmas Bureau.
The event ran from 6 to 9 a.m., and included photos with Santa and music from the Westcoast Fiddlers, the MEI Choir, and the Travis Thuro Band.
Members of Abbotsford Fire Rescue Service (AFRS) were on hand to collect the toys as people came through the doors, and to take them to the Christmas Bureau after the event.
Murray said, following this year’s success, Toys for Tots is already a go-ahead for next year.
He said the donations are greatly appreciated at a time when demand for services continues to grow. This Christmas is expected to draw record numbers of family seeking support over the holidays, including an estimated 1,200 children.
The food bank operates as the Christmas Bureau during the holiday season, providing food and gifts to families in need.
This year, the agency has set a fundraising goal of $800,000 – funds that are used to keep the food bank and its services running throughout the year.
The next major event for the Christmas Bureau is the Automall Food Drive.
Donations of items for the food bank are being collected around the community through the nine dealers of the Fraser Valley Auto Mall, along with Automall Autobody, Save-on-Foods, PriceSmart Foods and Abbotsford Fire Rescue Service.
On Saturday, Dec. 14 a convoy of vehicles will depart from the auto mall on Mt. Lehman Road at 11 a.m. to deliver the donations to the food bank.
For more information, visit abbotsfordfoodbank.com or call 604-859-5749.