Christmas came a few days early for more than 350 kids in Canby last week, as The Canby Center welcomed hundreds of local families to pick out presents and other goodies from a wide variety of donated toys.
“It’s Christmastime, which means that 2,000 years ago, baby Jesus was born in a manger,” said Canby Center Executive Director Ray Keen. “And we are celebrating today by giving away gifts to children.”
A total of 358 local children were registered to pick up gifts at the annual Christmas event held Wednesday, December 22 — while also enjoying a visit and pictures with Santa, hot chocolate, cookies and “candy canes galore.”
“It’s been a great, great day. Santa is doing an amazing job and the elves are trying to keep up,” Keen said with a laugh. “It’s great to see the smiles. It was great today to see kids lining up; they see the presents and then, they see Santa in the corner and they just light up. They’re so excited. So excited.”
Similar to Shop With a Cop hosted by the Canby Police Department during the holiday season, The Canby Center’s Christmas giveaway offers kids the chance to pick out their own gift and stocking stuffer.
“That’s the way we’ve done it for a few years, and it seems to work really well,” Keen said. “The toys are grouped by different age categories, and they’re able to go through and pick what they’d like.”
Gift cards to Cutsforth’s Market were also available to families in need of food during the holiday season.
“I do have to give a shout-out to the Canby community and say thank you to those who dropped off a gift and to those who donated to help us purchase toys,” Keen said. We’re really grateful for that.”
Families registered in advance, and the need was great, Keen admitted. Meeting those needs was another example of the Canby community’s generosity and — to Keen — God’s providence.
“We get to be in the midst of miracles that happen all the time,” he said. “We had 358 kids registered for this event. A month ago, we didn’t have 358 gifts to give, but we do today. That’s one of those moments I’ll always cherish.”
Keen believes that these kinds of gestures can make an even greater impact when people are in the midst of personal challenges — or at the end of a difficult year as many have experienced.
“I’ve heard of people today who were evicted just a couple of days ago,” Keen said. “Those kinds of challenges just seem to pile up for folks. I think it means more than we can imagine, to have others step forward and be generous, bring a word of encouragement to them, and that’s what we try to do here.
“It’s just an expression of God’s love for people. We see that in the birth of Christ at Christmas, and we are an expression of that at The Canby Center the other 364 days of the year.”
Due to Covid-19, the Canby Center took its Christmas show on the road last year, driving Santa and carolers to and handing out more than 400 gifts to families and children in local neighborhoods. This year’s event was able to take place in person, but with masks and other precautions in place.
Find out more about how you can get help or support the work of The Canby Center at thecanbycenter.org.
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