Pandemic no obstacle for senior who buys hundreds of toys for charity

Though the pandemic has meant many changes this holiday season, Lorna Ruttan is sticking to one longstanding tradition: donating toys to local children in need via the Mustard Seed.

After almost 15 years, she is making one change, ­however — she’s shopping online rather than in person. One local toystore owner was so pleased that she telephoned Ruttan to thank her after her recent order.

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Ruttan, 74, a retired physiotherapist who spent her career working with children with disabilities at a children’s hospital in Calgary, isn’t sure exactly how many toys she bought this year, but it could be in the hundreds.

She says she keeps them in a small bedroom and it’s full. “I’m not a rich person, but it gives me a great deal of ­satisfaction and pleasure to do it.”

She prefers to pick up good-quality items that will hold a youngster’s interest in the long-term, such as Lego and ­Playmobil. Some children will receive only a few toys through a year, “so they need something that is really good that they can play with a lot,” she says.

“And also my thought is for older kids, when they go back to school after the Christmas break and people are talking about what they got for Christmas,” they need to be able to talk about something they received for Christmas. “So they don’t feel bad.”

Ruttan laughs about the Slime-making kits she bought this year, becoming knowledgeable in the process about the various versions available. She’s also bought scooters, helmets, trucks and cars, rocking horses and more.

She says she’s never met the kids who receive the toys, but that doesn’t matter. “I don’t ever see them getting the toys, but I still get a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction from doing it … I can imagine them. That’s all I need.”

This holiday season, the Mustard Seed is helping 750 families, distributing hampers and serving takeout meals on Nov. 29 from its 625 Queens Ave. location, with help from the Times Colonist Christmas Fund.

A special room has been set aside for parents to “shop” for two toys per child plus stocking stuffers, as part of the support the non-profit organization provides to families at this time of year.

Ruttan also helps stock the Mustard Seed’s Fair Start for Kids school kits, which sends children to school in the fall with everything from backpacks to clothing and school supplies.

Every year, she buys a few hundred pairs of sturdy shoes, picking them up whenever there are sales.

Janiene Boice, Mustard Seed director of development, called Ruttan “incredibly generous” and modest.

“Lorna doesn’t ask for anything. She doesn’t put parameters on her giving. She just gives and there is some beauty in that.”

> Donate to the Times Colonist Christmas Fund at

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