JASPER, ALTA. -- A combination of little activity and fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic led to a decision to give away, not rent, toys at Jasper's Toy Lending Library, located in the Anglican Church.

The toys are free and donations are welcome too, and will go to Santa's Anonymous.

“There hasn't been much activity taking out toys,” said Melody Gaboury, who started the toy lending library with Anglican Church Reverend Andreas Sigrist, last fall.

Donations came from Jasper parents, the church network in Edmonton and a store called Once Upon a Time, and the toys, games and costumes have been free to rent since then, on the condition they're returned clean.

“The toy lending room wasn't as busy as I hoped,” Gaboury said. “The main reason I wanted to do this is because children don't need it to come in a package to be special.

“A new toy is a new toy, the plastic packaging isn't important. The fact is they get a new toy to play with. It's new to them. It doesn't need to be brand new.”

Gaboury lives by example. She said there have been very few times when she has purchased new toys for her children.

“Research has shown that if children have too many choices, they're not going to be as creative and use what they have, and get bored. It's just not necessary,” she said.

“I told my kids we're going to start sharing our toys with the community.”

The COVID pandemic has presented challenges in many forms including employment.

With either loss of a job, or a reduced number of hours being worked, “There's going to be a lot of people who need Santa's Anonymous this year,” Gaboury said.

“Instead of bringing toys to the thrift shop after Christmas, they can be dropped off before Christmas at the Anglican Church, by the office door.

“Do it now, because people are going to need help.”

In the current stock of toys, Gaboury said there are a lot for children under the age of five, but not as many for kids older than five.

The Toy Lending Library is accepting cleaned toys that are in complete sets and in good condition. All toys are disinfected after they are donated.

Toys can be picked up on the same days the Jasper Food Recovery items are available: Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and Thursdays from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The initiative started on Nov. 19.