The Royal Canadian Legion Branch 517 Petawawa received $3,500, raised through this year’s 2 Service Battalion Trucker’s Toy Drive. Receiving the cheque on behalf of the Legion from Sergeant Blair Grandy (left), Sergeant Rob Dunn (second from right) and Master Corporal Jonathan Doyon (right) is Past President Helene Hahn (second from left). (Photo by Lisa Brazeau, Petawawa Post)

Toy and food drive provides Christmas cheer for families in need

By Lisa Brazeau

Posted on Thursday January 9, 2020

They put out the call, and once again the community answered with an outpouring of generosity.

The Truckers’ Toy Drive led by 2 Service Battalion (2 Svc Bn) at Garrison Petawawa is an annual seasonal effort to collect new toys and funds for those in need in Petawawa and the surrounding area.

Its 32nd edition officially wrapped up on December 16, and, in partnership with the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 517 and Petawawa Pantry Food Bank food drive, the group undertaking provided gifts and meals for more than 75 local families in need over the holiday season. 

This was the first time Sergeant Rob Dunn, the 2019 Truckers’ Toy Drive primary organizer, was involved in the initiative.

“It is a lot of work but when you see everything come together, it makes it all worthwhile … you realize how much the community is involved in this and how much people in the community rely on it,” he said, noting it definitely helped boost his Christmas spirit. “Everywhere we went people were very willing to help because they know (these families) will enjoy a Christmas they might not otherwise.”

He and a team from the unit distributed 25 collection boxes in November to locations in Laurentian Valley, Pembroke, Petawawa and on Garrison Petawawa. The filled boxes were picked up the morning of the 16th and delivered to the Legion, where volunteers emptied and sorted the bounty of donations. A number of local businesses and organizations also donated items that were auctioned off in the weeks leading up to the toy drive’s conclusion, Sgt Dunn noted.

A cheque for $3,500 in collected funds was presented to the Legion to purchase additional groceries, or items like gift cards for teens to allow them to buy their own gifts.

The Legion also accepts food donations and funds for the drive, noted Past President Helene Hahn, and has extended financial support to the Petawawa Pantry to help stock their shelves.

“The (Pantry) does Christmas dinner in a box, so all their clients can come here,” explained Hahn. “Those who have kids can come here, we’ve got their names, and they can also pick up toys with their food, at the same time, all in one place.”

This year marked the third that the Petawawa Pantry has been a part of the seasonal drive, preparing the hampers for distribution through the Legion.

The boxes, which contained potatoes, carrots, onions, gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffing, fruit, juice, soup, pasta, and other food items, were prepared by volunteers from the food bank assisted by youth from St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church (Petawawa) and Pastor Albert Romkema.

A frozen turkey or ham was included when the hamper was picked up at the Legion by those registered to receive one.

The Christmas hamper turkeys and hams were purchased by individual or business donors, sometimes in bulk, and also by customers at Hyska’s Your Independent Grocer who picked a turkey or ham from the display board at the Customer Service Counter, explained Petawawa Pantry Manager Yvon Serre.

All food distributed by the food bank is donated, or purchased with donations, explained board secretary Linda Paterson. The organization is also volunteer-run, she added, so any donations go directly to the families.

“The people of Petawawa are so generous, and we are very appreciative of that,” Paterson noted, “and the Truckers do a fantastic job.”

Since 2016, the Petawawa Pantry has been providing donated food to singles, families, seniors and children in need in the Petawawa catchment area.

It is located at 3468-B Petawawa Blvd. in the Bridgeway Mall and open Tuesdays from 1-3 p.m. and Thursdays from 6-8 p.m.