Making Christmas bright for Surrey's less-fortunate
Jolly Old Saint Nicholas, Lean your ear this way;
Don’t you tell a single soul what I’m going to say,
Christmas Eve is coming soon; Now you dear old man,
Whisper what you’ll bring to me; Tell me if you can.
Johnny wants a pair of skates, Susie wants a sled.
Children around the world and throughout Surrey make wish lists during this festive, cheerful season, filled with wants and needs and fantasies.
Toys and games of every size, shape and colour. Dolls and puzzles. Cars and trains. Video games, bikes, sports equipment, iPods, cellphones, tablets, electronic readers and more make the list, causing parents to scramble and stress about how much they should spend on their children – or how much they should go into debt – to make Christmas morning an occasion to remember.
When families are in need during a season filled with giving, however, there are no letters filled with wishes to Santa. There are only wishes for shelter, food and warmth; wishes for simply, surviving.
That’s where the Surrey Christmas Bureau comes in.
Decorated with snowflakes hanging from the ceiling, twinkling Christmas lights, red and green signs, garlands of silver and other festive trappings, the Christmas bureau is busier this year than last.
People wait in a line outside as well as in a waiting area inside, some wanting to register for a Christmas hamper, while others are there for their alloted pick-up – or shopping – date.
“The numbers are really up this year,” said K.C. Gilroy, Surrey Christmas Bureau co-ordinator. “We’re up to 1,500 (hampers) already and expect 2,000 this year total. Last year, we only did 1,600 the entire time.”
People have until Dec. 15 to register for the program (if they qualify as low-income), but the past three weeks have already been hectic, Gilroy said.
Once someone is registered, a date and time is arranged for them to come in and shop the bureau to fill their Christmas hamper. The amount of gifts allowed varies, depending on the size of the family.
Christmas carols play cheerily in the background as clients browse the children’s, teen’s and stocking-stuffer sections, which are filled with new toys and games, as well as used toys.
“Teen gifts are always needed,” Gilroy noted.
She said the community is always generous, but a quarter of a million dollars needs to be raised each year to keep the year-round program running, and fundraising is necessary throughout the year.
Receiving corporate sponsorship always helps, Gilroy said, such as the help they’re getting from Surrey’s Comfort Inn & Suites, which held its first-ever ‘Stuff the Bus’ event on the weekend to raise new toys and funds for the Christmas bureau.
Those wishing to donate to the Surrey Christmas Bureau, or to sponsor a family, can drop by the facility at 10347 City Parkway (the old Whalley library), call 604-581-9623 or visit www.christmasbureau.com