By Yves Bélanger, Le Servir newspaper
Montréal, Quebec — It's not just Santa Claus who can count on a team of elves to prepare for the 25th of December. The Canadian Army’s 202 Workshop Depot (202 WD) also has a team that works throughout the year to refurbish the used toys it collects to allow children from low-income families to receive Christmas presents.
Laura Monaco, communications officer at 202 WD, explained that this unit has been supporting the Christmas toy project for more than 25 years. “We sort, clean, repair and check used toys, which will then be packaged into gift packs and distributed with the City of Montreal's firefighters' Christmas hampers.”
During the year, 450 volunteers (military, civilian employees, Montreal firefighters and external groups) spend hours of their time to make this project possible.
Tatiana Addante is one of the volunteers. For three years, she has come with her daughters to offer time and prepare toys. “My daughter is studying at Laval International School and she was looking for a place to volunteer. My husband, who is a firefighter, suggested we participate in the 202 WD project. I accompanied him and since then we have been coming back regularly.”
For Catherine Dagenais, this volunteer activity is a great way to make her offspring realize that many children are not as lucky as they are. “It's good that they are aware of the reality. For the past five years, we have been here with our family and the children are proud to help prepare Christmas presents.”
Sylvain Carrière is ex-military, currently divisional head of the Montreal Fire Department. He says that in his job, he too often sees the struggles of some Montreal families. “I have the privilege of having a good paying job. It makes me feel good to give time to the Christmas toys project and to put smiles on the faces of children who are not so lucky.”
Among the many volunteers who regularly volunteer with 202 WD, there is one that the project leaders call Mother Christmas. “This woman is Line Renaud. She comes here every day and is very helpful. More than once, she saved Christmas by recruiting volunteers or by asking people to donate the toys that their children no longer use,” said André Morriseau, Task Coordinator at 202 WD, also highlighting the valuable work of another dedicated volunteer, Jocelyne Parent.
Mr. Morriseau, who has been retired from military life since 2017, has been committed to the Christmas toy project for several years. “I was so proud when I was offered the same civilian job that I had as a soldier. This project is really close to my heart.”
Time for the distribution
A few days before Christmas, the team members will visit several Montreal cottages to hand over the results of their work. “Last year, we completed and donated more than 2,000 Christmas gifts to the Montreal Firefighters Association,” said Ms. Monaco, adding that almost as many presents will be provided this year.