By Jessica Lovell
The deadline has passed to register for curbside Christmas tree pickup through the Children’s Foundation of Guelph and Wellington’s Trees For Tots fundraiser, but come Saturday the volunteers will be scrambling to pick up as many trees as they can – regardless of registration.
“Last year, we had 1,500 that were registered and we ended up picking up 2,000,” said Children’s Foundation events and marketing manager Kristen Drexler. The deadline to register for pickup was Dec. 31, but the foundation continues to get emails from people saying they’ve just learned about the program, Drexler said.
Trees For Tots was a new fundraiser last year, when the city decided to end its curbside Christmas tree pickup. The Children’s Foundation saw it as an opportunity to bring in additional funds for its grants program, which provides financial support for kids in need to take part in sports and arts programs. In exchange for a minimum $5 donation, volunteers took away your old, dried-out tree.
“There were many challenges just because it was the first year,” said Drexler. “The biggest one was just that they had a short turnaround.”
The deadline to register for pickup is scheduled well in advance of pickup day – Jan. 11, this year – simply because it takes considerable time to map out routes for volunteers in order that pickups can be done most efficiently, Drexler said.
Volunteers were able to collect some extra trees – and extra donations – last year when they spotted those trees while travelling their pre-mapped routes, she said.
“If our volunteers had room and the time, they would pick up those in addition,” she said. In these cases, the volunteers might knock on doors to solicit donations.
This year, the foundation is trying to accommodate the late-comers to the program by letting those people know where they can leave their trees to have them picked up with ones that have already been registered, said Drexler.
But there’s no guarantee it will get picked up if it’s just left on the snowbank.
The foundation hopes to pick up more trees this year, with just over 1,700 already registered, said Drexler.
“We’d love to be able to do more in the same kind of time frame,” she said.
The foundation is getting a little extra help this year from Guelph Hydro, which is providing mapping software to help with the work of route planning.
The software is the same software the hydro company would use to dispatch its employees to deal with situations such as the power outages caused by December’s ice storm, said Drexler.
“They use it on an everyday basis, and it lends itself well to what we’re trying to do as well,” she said.
The hydro company is providing the software for free, and some of their employees will also be forming a team of volunteers to pick up trees on Saturday, she said.
A number of other businesses and organizations are doing the same, and there are those that will help in other ways, such as providing lunch for volunteers.
“There are lots of people who come on board to help us out with this,” said Drexler.
Scotiabank, which also has a team of volunteers, will be donating $5,000 to match some of the online donations that have already been received, she said.
They did the same last year, and the fundraiser brought in a total of $21,000.
In total, about 100 volunteers came out to pick up trees last year, and the foundation is hoping to have a similar number.
“People with trucks would be very helpful,” Drexler said.
Volunteers who can provide trucks to transport the trees to chipping stations are especially valuable, but any volunteers are welcome, she said.
“The more we have, the quicker we can get it done,” she said.
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By Jessica Lovell