The 2021 Lido Motel Secret Santa Operation was a huge success in December. They sponsored 74 families living at the Lido Motel, the Maple Leaf Motel, and the city’s Family Residence Emergency Shelter site on Kingston Rd.

By Janet Forrester

In November, Chrystal Bryan posted a message on the West Rouge Residents Facebook page asking if anyone was interested in helping organize a Secret Santa Operation in conjunction with the City of Toronto Family Residence Emergency Shelter. The resounding answer was “absolutely!”

Back in 2020, Chrystal recognized a need that would not be met due to COVID-19. Working alongside 11 enthusiastic elves, they supported 34 families that Christmas. “It was such a rewarding experience that several of us felt we had to do it again,” Chrystal said.

Dubbed the “2021 Lido Motel Secret Santa Operation,” the recent campaign was incredible. A wonderful organizing team of 13 elves rallied the community to sponsor a grand total of 74 families living within Family Residence Emergency Shelter’s portfolio at the Lido Motel, the Maple Leaf Motel, and the main Family Residence site on Kingston Road.

With over 55 coats, 40+ snowsuits, 35+ pairs of boots, 75 sets of sheets, 140+ toiletry kits, 170+ gift cards, 74 food hampers with specialty cookies, and many personal special gifts, our community brought a lot of smiles to the faces of the sponsored families.

Thanks goes to numerous volunteers who live in West Rouge, Centennial and Highland Creek, and to friends and family who may not live in these areas but stepped up to help make this initiative a huge success. It was an amazing community effort where volunteers sponsored one or more families, donated specific items, helped out as “super shoppers” or simply (and importantly) donated gift cards and cash. “We couldn’t have done it without you, “ said Chrystal.

A very special thanks goes to two of our monetary sponsors who gave $1,000 each. This money helped to buy many of the needed items. A total of $5,500+ was raised to support the 2021  initiative. Our super shoppers were so successful at finding the best deals that we were also able to make a cash donation to the Food and Clothing Bank at 4100 Lawrence Ave E.

Many volunteers were heard saying things like: “We are so fortunate to live in this supportive community where we can help bring the spirit of Christmas to many in need” and “So nice to see help going to people in our local community.”

Sophia Pottinger, Supervisor of Social Assistance for the Family Residence Emergency Shelter, was “proud to partner with Chrystal and her elves, volunteers and supporters who set out to bring Christmas cheer to families residing at the Family Residence emergency shelter. It was no small feat – they fulfilled the wish lists of 74 families, which included household items, toys and  games, clothes and food hampers. With warm hearts and smiles of glee, families received the gifts just before Christmas.”

The families were humbled by the kindness and generosity of this group. One family echoed what everyone felt: “Thank you, we really appreciated your gifts. It made our Christmas wonderful.”

We look forward to our continued partnership with the City of Toronto‘s Family Residence Emergency Shelter, and we anticipate having another successful Secret Santa operation in 2022.