COLD LAKE - While Christmas is more than three months away, it is on the minds of members of the Grand Centre Lions Club. For more than 30 years the organization has spearheaded an annual toy drive in the community.
Armand Gagnier, president of the Grand Centre Lions Club, said the organization has a 52-year history in Cold Lake, describing it as one of the longest surviving service clubs in the area during a presentation to City of Cold Lake council on Aug. 22.
Gagnier was on hand at the meeting seeking the City’s traditional $1,000 funding support of the annual Christmas program.
In 2022, Gagnier said 451 children from 141 families in the Cold Lake area received gifts through the local Santa’s Anonymous program valued at approximately $18,000. The club’s target area includes not only the city, but portions of the MD of Bonnyville, Cold Lake First Nation and Elizabeth Métis Settlement.
The Lions do an annual fund-raising blitz seeking new toy donations or cash contributions. This year a target of $13,000 in cash donations has been set in addition to the new toy donations. In a budget provided to council, Gagnier explained all toys purchased for Santa’s Anonymous is done locally.
Providing toys to children aged newborn to 15 years of age, he said the program has been well-received over the years and provides a helping hand up to those in need of it during the Christmas season.
“Times are tough out there as you all know. I don’t need to tell you that a lot of families are struggling,” Gagnier told council. “I could talk about a jug of milk for $7 but it would frustrate me too much to do that. Everything costs a lot of money and families go without gifts at Christmas which is supposed to be the happiest time of the year.”
City funding for this year’s drive will be considered as part of the Community Recreation, Cultural and Heritage Investment grant process.