40th Annual Castlegar Firefighters Christmas Toy Drive a snowy success

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
December 10th, 2022

Castlegar has once again outdone itself in stepping up for the whole community, if the results of the 40th Annual Castlegar Firefighters Christmas Toy Drive are any indication, with CFD Fire Chief Sam Lattanzio calling the event, “huge success”.

“We would like to thank everyone (who) came down to A&W to make a donation and we would like to thank Shirley Henderson and her staff for hosting the event today,” Lattanzio said in a Facebook post Saturday. “We would like to also thank the Castlegar Rotary Club for the huge donation of $1,500! In all, we managed to raise $3,762 and a ton of toys that will be donated to the Community Harvest Food Bank, Drop-In Center and Emergency Shelter. We also had Santa come for the event!

“Thank you and Merry Christmas”


Previous coverage:

Today’s your once-in-a-lifetime chance to participate in a landmark event while eating free burgers and helping people in your community, all at the same time!

The Castlegar Fire Department Toy Drive is on NOW until roughly 2 p.m. at A&W on Columbia Avenue, and this beloved event is celebrating 40 years delighting the community, while the Castlegar Fire Department celebrates 80 years saving and serving. (Interesting side note: the CFD is actually four years older than the Village of Castlegar, which was incorporated in 1946.)

It’s serving of a different sort today, though, as firefighters don gloves and aprons to wipe tables, greet community members and serve patrons – a donation of cash, gift card or a new, unwrapped toy is the price for a free Teen burger and some famous A&W Root Beer, courtesy Shirley Henderson and her terrific A&W team.

In fact, A&W’s quarter-century-plus of hosting the event has been instrumental in toy drive’s growth, according to Castlegar Fire Chief Sam Lattanzio.

“We used to host it at the fire hall,” Lattanzio said, explaining A&W promised dramatically improved visibility along Columbia Avenue complete with electronic signage, a destination in its own right as a popular local eatery, and even free burgers and sodas for people participating.

“It’s just phenomenal, what Shirley does – way above and beyond the call of duty.”

All proceeds will go to the Community Harvest Food Bank to be distributed throughout Castlegar and the surrounding areas.

Community Harvest Food Bank Manager Deb McIntosh says the proceeds from the event are a significant staple in their fundraising cupboard, explaining what is raised in November/December has to see the food bank through into the New Year, often through April.

“They bring in thousands in money and toys every year,” she said. She said there are massive fluctuations in need from month-to-month, depending on a multitude of factors, such as inflation, weather, employment rates, even COVID. She said she guesstimates CHFB will be giving out roughly 240 hampers to local families this holiday alone, not to mention the 1,200+ lunches and around 100 hampers per month. “It’s really up and down.”

The sort of massive, reliable support the Castlegar Firefighters Christmas Toy Drive brings is critical in allowing the food bank to fill its cupboards enough to be able to budget resources far enough ahead of time to prevent gaps in service.

For her part, A&W owner Shirley Henderson said she thinks it’s all amazing.

“I don’t even know how it all came about – it started off small, but it just kept getting bigger and bigger,” Hender son said, “Even the year of (the COVID shutdown), I was shocked at how many donations we got.”

All three of them – Lattanzio, Henderson and McIntosh – are united in their unbridled gratitude for the individuals, families, organizations and the business community for the staggering outpouring of support on offer each and every year.

And as to the best elves Santa could ever dream of having – the CFD firefighters, A&W staff, and CHFB volunteers: You have all given Castlegar, not just toys and food and safety and joy, but truly the gift of Community. Thank you All for your contributions and hard work.

Head down to A&W right now and share in the joy of giving!

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