Amid the rising cost of seemingly everything in B.C., a group of South Surrey parents got together this year to do a leave-one-take-one toy exchange to help ease the financial burden of buying holiday presents.
Kelsey Findlay has been a part of a mom’s Facebook group for years, but noticed a trend in the last few months that she had not seen in the Semiahmoo Peninsula group before.
“I feel like day after day after day, I was seeing these posts of ‘I can’t afford to feed my kids. How are you guys affording grocery budgets?’ ‘Gas bills are racking up, monthly rent’,” Findlay said.
The social media posts inspired the mom of two to float the idea of arranging a gift exchange within the group, and the response she got overwhelmingly gave the impression that many would enthusiastically take part.
“I thought, ‘OK, obviously there’s a really strong demand’ so I did what I could.”
Findlay got to work planning the exchange in a relatively short period of time. She opened up her home as a drop-off location for toys, then booked the Ocean Park Community Hall by donation and started an online registration form that individuals could use to fill out with items they planned to donate. Findlay could then distribute tickets for the event in accordance with how much each person or family donated.
“They were basically able to come and shop with their ticket. Some of them took more than they (gave) because we had a lot of gracious donations and some of them, if they had eight tickets only took five (items) because of what they could find and what they felt the need was for their family,” she shared.
There was even a collection of leftover toys that Findlay loaded into a truck and donated to a thrift store.
While many who Findlay saw participate did so for financial reasons, others were motivated by environmental concerns, she noted.
“You have all of these perfectly good, functional toys, especially from the under-three category, (they) hardly get touched and then what do you do with them?”
Over-consumption can be difficult to avoid, especially during the holiday season, but the event allowed people’s old toys to be given a second life in a new home.
Even with the quick turn-around, there were more than 40 people who participated in the exchange. Going forward, the toy exchange will hopefully become an annual event, Findlay added.
“A lot of people said ‘We just don’t have time to get stuff together.’ It’s such a busy time anyways, but I would definitely do it again and make it an annual thing with tons of notice.”
“It’s not like it’s new this year that people are in need. I just felt like there was a significantly (higher number) of your average, dual-income households that just can’t do it this year and it’s sad. It’s really sad.”
For anyone hoping to participate next year, Findlay advises they consider giving items their child no longer uses, but are still in good condition.
“Use your judgment for what you would be happy to receive if you were coming in and exchanging,” she said.