What began out of heartache and stress ended this weekend (Dec. 15 &16) in a wave of pressure releasing, volunteer driven and heartfelt community Christmas spirit.
Over the past six months, the forestry strike has taken its toll on many in the community; and as Christmas approached, there were many feeling the stress of the upcoming season.
For some, there had been no work and no paycheque for nearly half a year and much like that movie, It’s A Wonderful Life, the financial challenges had people wondering if they were the only ones feeling this and how would they get by, or get through this Christmas.
However, in the end, much like that classic film, the community came together with support and most of all, understanding.
One such example would be the efforts of Port McNeill residents, Laura Chase, Miranda Keys and Angela Williams who along with countless other volunteers, spent the past several weeks setting up a very special and free toy store.
Laura Chase explained, “We just wanted to support our local families on the North Island who needed some extra help this Christmas,” and as a result, the Toy Store was born.
Chase went on to explain how, in just two weeks, the community jumped onboard the idea, donating thousands of dollars worth of toys.
“The response from the community has been incredible and overwhelming,” she said.
Setting up shop in the Port McNeill MakersSpace, the Toy store was open over the weekend for anyone. Chase explained, “People could pick out the toys they need (at no cost) and even have them gift wrapped.” There were baked goods available all day and on Sunday, Santa took time off from his busy schedule up at the North Pole to make a special visit to Port McNeill.
Laura and her volunteers were also aware that many felt uncomfortable accessing help, saying, “I know a lot of people who are proud and it is hard for them to accept some help.” It was the first time for many and Laura and her team had spent a lot of time assuring and reassuring everyone that it was okay to accept the offer of friendship and help from the community.
The Toy Store was just one of many initiatives happening throughout the North Island and everyone contacted for this story spoke of how it reminded them of why they are so happy to call this area home.
Mayor of Port McNeill, Gaby Wickstrom, took a moment away from gift wrapping at the Toy Store to say: “What these ladies have done, along with the Loonies for Loggers women is nothing short of a Christmas miracle. They have created an atmosphere of caring like I haven’t seen in some time.” Adding, “It is more than toys and food. They are giving their hearts and offering much needed moral support during a very difficult time for the North Island.”
– Bill McQuarrie article