Trading tickets for toys

Have you received a parking ticket recently? If so, you might be able to get off of Santa’s naughty list by turning that fine into some Christmas cheer for the less fortunate, with the annual Toys for Tickets program.

Any ticket issued since Sept. 1, 2014 can be paid with a new, unwrapped toy.

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Tickets will be accepted at City Hall from Dec. 8 to 19, when they’ll be collected and brought over to the Salvation Army for distribution to a family in need.

The program has been going on since 2005 and provides a way for traffic violators to give back to the community.

This is the third year that Bonnie Isenberg, one of the city’s bylaw enforcement officers, has seen the program rolled out. She’s always impressed with the generosity, she said, adding that some people even wait for the Toys for Tickets program to kick off before paying their parking tickets. “Two officers are out every day,” she said.

“Unfortunately, being in the bylaw enforcement field has a negative stigma to it, and getting a parking ticket can make people a bit upset, so giving them an option of paying the ticket with a toy, knowing that it goes to a family that needs a toy or needs something for the holidays, they’re more inclined to take the ticket and come to City Hall and pay it with a toy,” she said.

The tickets that she and her fellow officers hand out around this time of year come with a sticker that explains the program.

Violators don’t have to pay with a toy, either. They could also designate the money for the ticket be given to the Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army’s Captain Deb Vanderhayden didn’t have exact numbers on how many they get each year, but she speculated that it was around a dozen, which to her was quite a few.

“I don’t know what that says about you drivers here in Fort St. John,” she laughed.

The toys are put into family hampers, made up of assorted presents and grocery gift cards that are distributed to local families who can’t afford Christmas. “We have just over 100 hampers right now, and I still have phone calls coming in,” said Vanderhayden.

She said that this year there’s a particular shortage of gifts for teenagers. That includes movie tickets, gift cards, sports equipment, and makeup.

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