MCC Toronto Star Box Depot Summary
The MCC Toronto Star Box Depot began in 1991, when Ernie Lacasse introduced himself to Hank Condie, who had come to church to try to recruit delivery volunteers to help him deliver boxes in Riverdale. Hank had been delivering the Star Boxes for about 25 years at the time, along with his Kiwanis members, and as the membership aged he found himself with fewer and fewer volunteers. The number of boxes, however were growing. He needed help. Ernie suggested the church could help in a bigger way and perhaps take a portion of the large Riverdale route from Hank. Hank thought it was a great idea and Ernie began his official role as the MCC Toronto resident Santa Claus.
Mrs. & Mrs. Claus (Romelda Morson & Heather Magee) didn’t take over the MCC Toronto Depot until 2005 when Ernie retired and hung up his Santa hat. Over the past five years, Romelda and Heather have automated the routing and sorting of the boxes to make handling such a large number of boxes more efficient, and have required approximately 75 volunteers each year to be delivery elves, usually the first week of December each year. You can discover more history about the MCC Toronto Depot by reading about the two Delivery Areas below.
Each year, the Depot only operates for a few days, surprisingly. We receive the shipment of boxes from Santa’s Secret Warehouse usually on a Thursday (most often the first Thursday in December).
The truck and about 10 volunteers arrive and we manually hand bomb the 1600 boxes into Room 109 at the church, which takes about an hour and a half, being sure to keep the two delivery areas separate for ease of sorting later. About 5 days prior to receiving the actual boxes,
we are able to route the boxes from our delivery list and generate digital delivery route lists and delivery maps that we print for each route – this also determines our sorting lists we work from to sort the boxes correctly. Each route can have different numbers of boxes, but we try to average about 12 stops per route, knowing that the average family has 2 kids per family, each car gets about 20-25 boxes, and vans often get double that amount and small cars a few less. Usually we end up with about 75 routes.
On Saturday of that same week we will sort the boxes, with the help of about 10 volunteers (the room at this point is pretty full, and less sorters actually works better so no one is tripping over each other). Sorting usually takes about 2-3 hours, and by the time the elves are done the room is full of tall stacks of boxes, each stack representing a route.
For about three weeks prior to deliver day, we advertise for volunteer elves to help deliver. This is a tradition for almost all those who volunteer, and many have delivered boxes for as long as MCC Toronto has been a depot, and there are always new elves each year who have yet to experience the joy of giving a kid a christmas, so it doesn’t take long to get our 75 volunteers.
An email reminder goes out to all registered delivery elves on Saturday night to remind elves to pick up their boxes Sunday.
The Sunday after sorting, the elves come and pick up their boxes for delivery, along with a map of their route and a list of stops to make with addresses and phone numbers, to make deliveries easier. With a bit of quick instruction and some cheerful happy holiday greetings, boxes are loaded into sleighs of all sizes (even the cooper mini sleigh can take a full route of boxes!) and elves go straight to work. While elves don’t have to deliver the boxes on that Sunday, many do. We have people who get their boxes before the 9am service, and are back to attend the 11am service, with deliveries completed! Other elves call the families first, and deliver throughout the week when it is convenient for them.
The following Sunday is Undeliverable Return day. Any boxes the elves can not successfully deliver, are brought back. The Clauses take over the task of locating the families, with the help of the Warehouse. And usually we are successful in redelivering at least half of the returned boxes that week, only because we have great help from the Warehouse and our amazing volunteers that so enthusiastically want to be elves and help any way they can.
In 2021, Romelda and Heather retired as the MCC Toronto Depot Coordinators after purchasing a home in Midland, Ontario, too far away to remain as coordinators. But, new Clauses are on board! Cathy and Graham White take on the task in 2021!