Longstanding Jamaica Community Association (JCA) members Gifford and Raphaelita Walker have relished giving and sharing for most of their life.
One of the things they most enjoy is giving toys and sharing themselves with young people for a few hours each December at the annual JCA Kids Christmas party.
“It’s such a joy to see the smiles on their faces when they receive their gifts,” said Raphaelita who, along with her husband, have been playing Mr. and Mrs. Santa at the event for nearly 30 years. “I know the kids look forward to this time of the year, but we do so also. It’s special for us just as it is for them.”
Many of the young people who attended the Christmas party years ago have grown up and some of them are active in the JCA.
“It’s funny, but occasionally someone will come up to us and say you gave us gifts at the party when we were children,” said Raphaelita. “It’s then that we realize how long we have been doing this for. We enjoy it and always make time on that Sunday afternoon in December for this event.”
The Walkers have served on almost every committee during the JCA’s 47-year existence and they can always be counted on to perform any organizational task asked of them.
The couple left Jamaica in 1957 for England. Frustrated by a rising wave of anti-Black sentiment in the early 1960s and the introduction of the Commonwealth Immigration Act, they came to Toronto nearly 45 years ago in search of a better life.
Raphaelita worked as an assistant housekeeper at the Sheraton Hotel and a dress designer at a downtown store before entering the health care field. Along the way, she and Gifford put in quality time and money in almost every JCA endeavour.
The Walkers, who celebrated their 54th wedding anniversary last August 3, also opened their Toronto home to many students coming from Jamaica and newcomers who arrive here without any support.
“For us, nothing exceeds the gift of giving,” said Rapahelita, whose daughter Olivia “Babsy” Grange is a senior Jamaica Labour Party member.
JCA president Audrey Campbell said it’s a ‘no-brainer’ when it comes to deciding who will be Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus each year.
“It would be so hard to pull it away from those two people,” said Campbell. “They do such a great job and they are so well liked.”
Gifford acted as Mr. Santa alone before his wife joined him.