Volunteers with St. John Ambulance’s Stratford branch will return to their usual spot at the Stratford Mall, in front of the Winners, from Dec. 7-24 for the organization’s annual gift-wrapping fundraiser.
Anyone looking to get some holiday shopping done at the Stratford Mall will soon have the opportunity to have their gifts wrapped while giving back to an important community service.
After two years of pandemic disruptions, volunteers with St. John Ambulance’s Stratford branch will be back at their usual post near the Winners from Dec. 7 to Dec. 24 ready to wrap gifts in exchange for a voluntary donation.
“We actually did do it last year, but we were in a store front … and it was definitely slower,” said St. John Ambulance Stratford branch manager Karen Mahovlich. “People were cautious, but we had the storefront because we thought, from our volunteers’ perspective, it would be safer to be in a less-public space and to have physically more space so the wrappers could spread out.
“This year we’ll be back outside the Winners like we have done in the past. It’s a really good spot for us because it does make us really visible. Pretty much no matter which entrance you use or where you go in the mall, you’re going to see us.”
That foot traffic at the former Festival Marketplace Shopping Centre is important for the annual fundraiser, which supports the first-aid services St. John Ambulance provides at community and other large events. In addition, the money raised this year will help buy a new ambulance after the organization’s main method of transportation and delivery for medical and other equipment caught fire earlier this year.
“The electrical system in the dashboard caught fire and, from what I now have learned, that’s not something you could have safety checked. It’s something you can’t be prepared for and we were not prepared for that,” Mahovlich said.
While no one was hurt in the fire – and the ambulance was parked safely outside – Mahovlich said its loss left the Stratford St. John Ambulance branch in a tight spot. The organization had actually delayed the replacement of the aging vehicle after traditional training services and other revenue-generating activities were put on hold during the pandemic.
“We have to replace it and we have to find the money to do that, so this is one fundraiser of probably many that we will do and direct those funds to replacing that vehicle so we can transport first-aid equipment or oxygen tanks or even bikes, or all those different bits and parts that we take to events,” Mahovlich said.
For those who want to support the local St. John Ambulance through this fundraiser, Mahovlich made it clear her volunteers, many of whom return year after year, are some of the best in the gift-wrapping game. So in exchange for whatever donation those who use their services want to give, they will provide wrapping of the highest calibre for gifts of all sizes, shapes and weights.
In the past, Mahovlich said her volunteers have taken on gifts that were logistically complex to wrap, including a rocking horse that was not in a box and a full-size gun cabinet.
For those who would like something wrapped but can’t afford to donate, whether that’s kids with gifts for their parents or a family in need, Mahovlich said the volunteers are always happy to lend a hand.
“We’re really excited to have them back,” said new Stratford Mall property manager Allison Ballantyne, who agreed to continue providing space for the fundraiser at the mall free of charge this year. “From my understanding, they’ve been here quite a long time. … It’s good traffic, it brings people in … and it brings a little Christmas cheer to the mall, which is always a good thing.”
Mahovlich said she’s still looking for a few volunteers to take on gift-wrapping shifts this season. For more information and to volunteer, email Karen.Mahovlich@sja.ca.
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