There would be no Christmas for Justin Pobler and his family without the annual Toys for Tots to Teens toy drive.
The 40-year-old single father of two 15-year-old daughters and a four-year-old son has relied on the generous donations of gifts and toys for the last few years to ensure a merry Christmas for his family, and he now gives back by volunteering for the drive himself.
The gift of giving has helped him provide the same benefit to other families in need after he was asked to help out by a friend in the Salvation Army.
“It feels amazing. The first couple of years that I used it I was so thankful and wished that I could do something for them just to show my appreciation,” Pobler said.
Pobler is grateful knowing first hand about financial struggles.
“It’s huge. Being a single dad and having a low income, I wouldn’t be able to do half of what I do for my kids if it weren’t for the toy drive,” he said. “It makes your heart swell for sure. Christmas is all about family and friends and whatnot, but to see your kids eyes light up on Christmas morning, or even before when you’re putting a few gifts under the tree — it’s priceless.”
Pobler now helps with sorting and organizing toys into age appropriate piles and placing them into hampers which are brought to the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre to give out to the families in need. His connections with the North Pole also gets Santa Claus to show up for parents picking up the hampers.
“There is quite a bit involved,” Pobler said “When my friend said she needed some help I jumped all over the chance. For the past couple of years it has felt really good to give back to the Salvation Army.”
Having done so much for him, Pobler hopes others in need will look to the toy drive as well.
“For anybody out there that’s reading this, don’t be shy to come down and sign up for a hamper, you won’t regret it. The people who donate their gifts, it’s wonderful and it’s good high-quality stuff,” Pobler said. “Don’t be shy we’ll be glad to have them, the more the merrier.”
Changing the lives of families during the holiday season is what keeps Joey Cyr, supervisor for family services at the Salvation Army in Penticton, coming back each year.
“We love it. It’s a big part of what we do and we really want to put a smile on the kids faces. When it comes to the kids that’s our one priority, whether it be nutritious food or something as simple as a Christmas present,” Cyr said.
Those looking to donate new, unwrapped toys can do so at Canadian Tire up until Nov. 24, when a drop-off event will take place in the parking lot of Canadian Tire from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Santa Claus will be making an appearance from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. and returns between 3 and 5 p.m. for photos. Tim Hortons will be bringing along some coffee and muffins in the morning and Marketplace IGA will be hosting a hot dog barbecue in the afternoon from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.
Doug MacMillan, owner of Canadian Tire, will be on hand for his 10th year with the drive.
“I think it’s a great community initiative to help out needy families and it falls right into line with the Jumpstart campaign that Canadian Tire runs nationally for families in need,” MacMillan said.
The drive isn’t only about toys, but practical items for teenagers and older kids. Canadian Tire is matching every dollar spent on toys put in the bin located at the front exit. As well, members of the Penticton Vees will also be on hand for those taking advantage of the drive-thru service from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.