A Fantastic Christmas Exchange

By Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
A Fantastic Christmas Exchange
Final preparations for Christmas in South Dundas – South Dundas Christmas Exchange chair Bonnie McNairn makes a final check over a long line of boxes before items were picked up at the Morrisburg Legion Thursday morning (December 16). In all, 172 boxes were given out by the exchange this season for 519 people in South Dundas, including 151 children. (The Leader/Blancher photo)

MORRISBURG – A busy day for local volunteers helped make the South Dundas Christmas Exchange a success for another year.

Exchange chair Bonnie McNairn tells The Leader that the organization had an “overwhelming” response from the community this Christmas, both in donations and in need.

“The [Exchange] reached its fundraising goal for the purchase of the food that goes into our food boxes, and the response to our pajama drive was phenomenal,” she said.

“Every one of the 151 children registered will be receiving new pjs for Christmas.”

A sock drive at Iroquois Public School and a sock donation by the Iroquois-Matilda Lions Club meant each child also received one or two pairs of socks, and mittens and toques provided by local area knitters.

Angel Tree programs organized by the Morrisburg and District Lions Club and Iroquois resident Sandra Johnston also were successful.

“The response to their toy campaign was amazing,” McNairn said. “People who missed out on an Angel actually went out and purchased extra toys and books to be added to the gift bags.”

By the numbers, there are 519 people, including 151 children, who were helped this year. The Exchange distributed 127 family boxes from the Morrisburg Legion Hall, and prepared 45 boxes for single persons that were distributed by Community Food Share in Morrisburg.

The organization has a budget of over $10,000, all of which is raised in the community through local businesses, service clubs, church groups, and individual donations.

Additionally there is help from Craig Packaging in Iroquois, which supplies the boxes for the exchange. The Royal Canadian Legion Branch 48 in Morrisburg  serves as the staging ground for this important Christmas season operation.

She explained that except for bank fees and mailing costs, all money raised by the Exchange – which is a registered charity – is spent on food.

Family food boxes included a choice of a ham or turkey, fresh produce, canned fruit and vegetables, rice, crackers, cheese, and of course, cookies.

As the organization receives local support, it shops local too. Food for the exchange is purchased from Laura’s Valu-mart, Mike’s Foodland, Morrisburg, Giant Tiger, Smyth’s Apple Orchard, and the Williamsburg Meat Market.

“They are all wonderful to work with and all go the extra mile to get us the best possible prices,” McNairn said.

She said the operation would not be a success without the help of the many volunteers and businesses that help out.

An overview of only some of the boxes packed at the Royal Canadian Legion – Morrisburg Branch.

This includes the Morrisburg Golf Club which provides storage space, Allan and Heather Black, Stephen Boucher, and the MDLC who help with transportation. Knox Presbyterian Church in Morrisburg provides the hot-line phone and volunteer Greta Roberts organized a 10-person volunteer registration group. Scott Lane at Seaway Valley Pharmacy covers the annual cost of advertising.  Patty Boucher organized the pajama drive, and local hair salons and their clients, and local churches participate in the campaign.

“The Christmas Exchange is an organization that is embraced by our community to help our neighbours and friends in need during the holiday season,” McNairn said. “And wow, what a fantastic job our community does!”

This article was originally written for and appeared in The Morrisburg Leader.

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