Annual gift wrapping fundraiser in need of volunteers

The Stratford Lakeside Active Adults Association, St. John Ambulance Stratford-Perth, and the Festival Marketplace Shopping Centre are once again offering gift-wrapping services at the mall until Christmas Eve.

The Stratford Lakeside Active Adults Association and St. John Ambulance Stratford-Perth's annual gift wrapping fundraiser is officially underway at the Festival Marketplace Shopping Centre. Pictured from left are Stratford manager of community development Carys Wyn Hughes, Festival Marketplace property manager MJ Thomson, volunteer wrapper Joan Robinson, and St. John Ambulance Stratford-Perth branch manager Karen Mahovlich. Galen Simmons/The Beacon Herald/Postmedia Network

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For roughly 27 years, Stratford Lakeside Active Adults Association volunteers (SLAAA) have manned a gift-wrapping booth at the Festival Marketplace Shopping Centre each December as a way to raise money for the club.

In recent years, the seniors organization has partnered with the Stratford-Perth branch of St. John Ambulance to split the proceeds and bring in additional volunteers to help keep this tradition alive.

“If you go back 25 years, I think older adults used to volunteer and they used to give all their time,” said Carys Wyn Hughes, Stratford’s manager of community development. “It’s changed. Volunteerism has changed. That’s not what they do. They have a purpose and they just don’t want to give their time like they used to, and many people work as well. Even though they’re retired, they work, so they just don’t have the time.”

With the need for more and more volunteers as the month goes on and demand for gift wrapping skyrockets, fundraiser organizers are targeting other groups, businesses and organizations, offering them the chance to give back to their community during the holiday season.

“We’ve gone to banks. We’ve gone to different businesses. Conestoga College will have a team of staff and they will man it,” Hughes said. “So that is an awesome opportunity for anybody to give back. Anybody that has the ability to gift wrap is more than welcome to sign up.”

To sign up as a group or an individual wrapper, contact St. John Ambulance Stratford-Perth branch manager Karen Mahovlich by emailing or calling 519-271-2290.

Now that the annual fundraiser benefits both the seniors group and St. John Ambulance, the organizations split the proceeds evenly.

“It allows us to do some more community things,” Mahovlich said. “St. John Ambulance is itself a charity, so although you pay to take first-aid courses with us, any profits after we pay our expenses have to go back to the community. So it’s that medical first-responder group that you see at community events doing first aid, and we do a therapy dog program.

“So the volunteers who do these programs, if they require training… or uniforms or anything else, we provide these things with the profits we make from the commercial side of our business. So the more money we have, the more we can do.”

The gift-wrapping station will be set up during regular mall hours in front of Winners at the Festival Marketplace Shopping Centre from now until Christmas Eve. Wrapping services are offered in return for donations and made possible thanks to the donation of space and the provision of materials at a low cost by Festival Marketplace management.

On Dec. 19, as those last-minute shoppers begin to get desperate, the mall and the volunteers from SLAAA and St. John Ambulance will also offer a Free Gift Wrapping night starting at 4:30 p.m.