Local firefighters are continuing their annual holiday tradition of giving back to the community, above and beyond the protection and aid they already afford the Nicola Valley. The Merritt Firefighters Association, an organization representing firefighters of the Merritt Fire Rescue Department, is once again holding their annual toy drive.

Merrittonians can donate unused and unwrapped gifts for children of all ages in two drop-off boxes in the Valley, with custom and uniquely identifiable donation bins located at Walmart and Canadian Tire. Gifts can be purchased from the stores, or brought from elsewhere. The donated gifts will be given to the Nicola Valley & District Food Bank, for distribution through its annual Christmas hamper program for families. 

“It’s been at least eight years since the associations started doing this, maybe even longer,” said Captain Carl Johnston with Merritt Firefighters Association.

“We’ve been working with the Nicola Valley Christmas hamper program, Canadian Tire, and Walmart for numerous years, and they’ve always been supporters of it.”

Johnston explained that the idea for the toy drive came up originally during an association meeting, with members having a mutual desire to give back to the community. Originally, the association sponsored one family through the food bank, but wanted to increase their impact to be community wide. 

“In years past, everyone sponsored just one family. The idea of the toy drive came up to make a bigger impact, especially for kids during that time of year. They’ve had some huge numbers come from those boxes,” noted Johnston.

Due to the often high volume of donations, surplus toys are kept in storage by the food bank and used as part of its birthday program. The program offers birthday gifts to families who may not be able to afford them. 

The Merritt Firefighters Association annual toy drive will run until Friday, December 16, at which point donations will be brought to the food bank’s Christmas hamper program location. Those interested in donating are asked to donate unused and unwrapped items only. Walmart, located on Crawford Avenue, along with Canadian Tire on Forksdale, host the donation drop-off boxes. 

“We’re simply putting out the means for people to donate, and it’s all about the people of Merritt being able to give back,” added Johnston. 

Johnston commended that the association is grateful to the community, the food bank, and participating businesses for their involvement in the annual toy drive. For more information on the Nicola Valley & District Food Bank, visit www.nicolavalleyfoodbank.com.