BY JENNA BRAUN
Each December, approximately 1,200 people from all over Waterloo Region gather inside 508 Riverbend Dr., a seemingly typical commercial office building. Garlands and sparkling décor hang all over the large, open reception area with twinkling yellow lights trickling down the spiral staircase.
Realtors from Coldwell Banker Peter Benninger Realty (CBPBR) invite their clients once a year to join them at their brokerage for a good cause: Trees for Toys.
Genuine trees and wreaths are purchased from Drysdale Tree Farm by the CBPBR realtors, then given to clients as a “thank you.” Clients are encouraged, but not required, to bring in new, unwrapped toys in exchange for their trees and wreaths. There is no minimum price required.
“It began with a similar event in the U.S.,” said Dave Tidd, a CBPBR realtor. “A group of realtors here that wanted to give back liked the idea.”
According to Bev Hepburn, residential sales manager, the previous residential sales manager partnered with Dave Tidd and a few other realtors to begin the event that has now become a tradition at CBPBR.
Though bringing in a donation is optional, the realtors collect about 400 toys of all kinds during Trees for Toys, which are donated afterward to local families in need for the Christmas season.
“We have pictures with Santa, pony rides and face painting for the kids,” Tidd said. “The fire department is also on site with the fire safety house and live fire safety demonstrations.”
Hundreds of people endure the cold weather and watch as trained firefighters light a tree on fire, then put it out, teaching young and old about the dangers of fires during the holidays.
“My favourite part is seeing past clients,” Tidd said. “Everyone is smiling and the kids love it.”
Clients bring their friends, spouses and children with them, making it a loud and colourful place to be. There are treats, drinks and volunteers dressed in Christmas-themed costumes. This year will be the ninth year the event has run, and will take place on Saturday, Dec. 5.
To donate a new, unwrapped gift to a family in need this holiday season, one can bring it to either Fairview or Conestoga Mall in December, where large donation boxes are situated for drop-off.
To donate or see volunteer opportunities during the holidays, visit www.houseoffriendship.org.