The Blue Marlin Inn in Port Alberni is offering Mag’s Restaurant for a toy drive for out-of-work forestry employees this Christmas. (MIKE YOUDS/ Alberni Valley News)

The Blue Marlin Inn in Port Alberni is offering Mag’s Restaurant for a toy drive for out-of-work forestry employees this Christmas. (MIKE YOUDS/ Alberni Valley News)

Christmas toy drive follows Port Alberni fundraiser for out-of-work forestry workers

Between forestry workers on strike and early Mosaic closure, thousands are affected

BY MIKE YOUDS

Special to the News

Families struggling through forest sector difficulties this Christmas can count on some help from a local toy drive set to begin this weekend.

Mag’s Restaurant next to the Blue Marlin Inn will be open for toy and book donations on Sunday, Dec. 1 after 3 p.m., said MaryAnn Cheetham.

“I’m asking people to bring their new or gently used toys that are clean,” said Cheetham, who also organized a beer and burger fundraiser at the pub last week in support of the same cause.

This time, she’s hoping others will step up to lend a hand. Once it’s stocked with donated toys, Mag’s can serve as a temporary shop for parents to brighten their family Christmas. The restaurant is usually closed at this time of year.

“Help is greatly appreciated,” Cheetham said, noting that one woman has already offered to assist, she said.

If the Blue Marlin fundraiser was any indication, the toy drive should be well supported by the community.

“The fundraiser was an absolutely phenomenal success,” Cheetham said. “We sold out and there was standing room only. We’re still waiting for a final tally, but I think we raised about $8,000. That will feed all the members for a week.”

The funds will fill food hampers she plans to prepare for about 240 union workers and their families.

While talks broke down between United Steelworkers Local 1-1937 and Western Forest Products last week, the union indicated on its website Wednesday that mediators are working to arrange new dates for negotiations to continue. At the same time, Mosaic Forest Management has announced a temporary curtailment of operations due to poor market conditions. That brings the total number of idled workers on the Island to about 5,000.

“We are in a crisis situation in our little town and we need to stick together,” Cheetham said. “This is especially important now that Mosaic has shut down.”

Opening hours for the toy drive outlet will be confirmed once Cheetham can co-ordinate other volunteers. Volunteers can contact her at 250-731-5385.