There was no band playing or school choir singing but the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t put a stop to the annual opening of the Gingerbread House at the Valley Mall in Corner Brook on Wednesday.
The house, which has been a fixture at the mall for 39 years during the Christmas season, is a drop-off point for gifts that the Salvation Army’s community and family services division distributes in toy hampers for families in need.
Community ministries worker Jane Ash was at the mall to officially open the house and kickoff the kettle drive with mall manager Tammy Joyce and Gerald Fifield, the Salvation Army’s kettle co-ordinator for Corner Brook.
Last year 431 toy hampers were provided to families in Corner Brook, Massey Drive, and the north and south shores of the Bay of Islands. And 700 gift cards for a complete Christmas dinner were also distributed thanks to the kettle drive.
Ash said a lot of families have already registered for hampers this year and she expects the number will be higher than last year. She said the COVID-19 pandemic will have an impact on the numbers as people are still out of work or working fewer hours, but the need is still just as great without factoring in the pandemic.
People can drop gifts off at the Gingerbread House until Dec. 23. All items collected will be quarantined before being distributed by the Salvation Army.
The first donations to the house were made by employees from Sobeys and Miss Newfoundland and Labrador Claire Hulan-Beck.
Ash said anyone who previously received a hamper will be contacted by community and family services to find out if they still require assistance.
People who have never received Christmas assistance from the Salvation Army can call 709-639-8642 or register online at www.cfscornerbrook.org/christmas-assistance.
Anyone without a phone can drop by the office at 6 Herald Ave. on Wednesdays or Fridays from 9 a.m. to noon or 1 to 3:30 p.m. to register.
Along with the need for donations to the Gingerbread House and the kettle, Fifield said there is also a need for volunteers to look after the kettles that will be located around the city.
He said the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the ability to find volunteers. Anyone interested in volunteering can contact him at 660-6117.
Diane Crocker reports on west coast news.