Two dozen Canton residents were playing cards, sipping hot coffee and chatting with each other in the lobby of the Trinity Episcopal Church in Collinsville.
It was in the early hours of Dec. 14, and they were waiting patiently for the doors to open downstairs so that - one-by-one - they could do some holiday shopping for children, grandchildren, parents and other family members.
For some, this would be the only time they would be searching for that perfect gift. Many had been coming to the annual “Gifts for Canton” event for years; others were here for the first time because they had run into financial hardship. But for all, this was an opportunity to feel the spirit of Christmas.
“Gifts for Canton” is held one morning each December for Canton residents who cannot afford to buy holiday gifts. Free "shopping" is on a first-come, first-served basis and shoppers followed individual guidelines on who they could buy for and how many gifts they could select.
But according to Chamber member Ann Gagnon, who has run “Gifts for Canton” for the past 16 years, it is the hundreds of local businesses, civic organizations, schools, and residents of Canton who are really the ones to thank.
For the past several weeks, dozens of donation boxes were set up at businesses all over town. Schools, churches, scouts and other groups held numerous toy drives.
The sponsored a “Stock the Cruiser” day at the Shoppes at Farmington Valley.
“This is one way Canton can give back to those in need,” Gagnon said. “It’s important to help our neighbors.”
She said many think of cities like Hartford or Waterbury when it comes to helping those less fortunate, but “there really is a need in a small town like Canton.”
One Canton resident, sitting with a friend in the lobby, was looking forward to picking up a gift or two for her grandchildren, which she could not otherwise afford on her limited income.
Without the help of “Gifts for Canton,” she said, “they wouldn’t get much from grandma this year.”
If anyone would like to donate gift cards, toys or other gift items, contact the Canton Chamber of Commerce at (860) 693-9105 or P.O. Box 704, Canton, CT, 06019.