Chrystal McCarthy and her six-month-old son Calin wait to register at the Surrey Christmas Bureau (SCB) on Nov. 22. McCarthy has been a client of the SCB since 2011 after the birth of her daughter Ariana

All they want for Christmas

Elves at the Surrey Christmas Bureau got their wish for a new place; now they're busy briging joy for others.

A few days ago, as the doors of the Surrey Christmas Bureau (SCB) opened at 10 a.m., coordinator K.C. Gilroy (left) asked a woman how long she’d been waiting.

Since 5:15 a.m., she answered.

The mother thought there would be a line-up at the new toy depot in North Surrey.

It was a bit of an overreach – and Gilroy has told others that coming at 9:30 a.m. or so is a better idea – but the sentiment was there: People want help at Christmas.

From Nov. 8-22, more than 900 had already registered with the SCB, with up to 1,700 expected by the time sign-ups are complete on Dec. 2.

Surrey families with kids and financial hardship are in luck, as the SCB has the volunteers, loads of toy and gift card donations (though more are welcome) and the space.

This year, the SCB toy depot is located at a former Sears (and The Brick) outlet at 13583 104 Ave. – more than 30,000 square feet of floor space, rent free, courtesy of Bosa Properties.

Inside, Chrystal McCarthy, 29, waits in the lobby for an interview at the registration desk with her six-month-old baby boy Calin.

McCarthy has been a client since 2011 with the birth of her daughter Ariana, now 5.

Each year, she’s been grateful to be matched with a sponsor in the Adopt-A-Family program, where 600 of the client families get toys, gift cards and Christmas dinner delivered directly by a sponsor – a business, family or individual.

The single mom says she comes to the SCB “because I’m poor – because I can’t afford Christmas because it’s expensive.”

Another visitor is Lwabanya Byaombe, who arrived with settlement worker Zipporah Sanya, his unofficial interpreter from the Welcome Centre at the Surrey School District.

Byaombe, a father of four, speaks only Swahili and a sprinkling of French.

He arrived in Canada from Tanzania on Oct. 11, and he’s already getting a warm welcome at the Surrey toy depot.

“We work with people who come from many parts of the world,” says Gilroy, who acknowledges that this year, many of the new clients are from Syria.

Gilroy says that about two-thirds of SCB clients are on income assistance; the rest have part-time jobs or need help making ends meet.

“We do our part,” she adds casually.

Making their season brighter are some 120 volunteers who work with registration and sorting of toys and clothes.

“These are my elves,” says red-hatted Margaret Lloyd (left), a retired Wal-Mart cashier and de facto head of the children’s section, pointing to Mildred and Chantelle Thomas, a mother-and-daughter pair of volunteers working nearby.

“It’s fun – I enjoy helping people,” says Lloyd, who is volunteering for a seventh year with the SCB.

Volunteers will gather and sort donations until Dec. 5 or so, after which families will return to pick up their care packages at pre-arranged dates up to a few days before Christmas.

Many of the kids will get bikes some of which are stored in a back room.

They’re what Gilroy calls “just the tip of the iceberg” – another 100-200 bikes have been promised by Dominion Lending Centres and REC for Kids Society, a sports equipment charity in Newton.

The public is welcome to visit the SCB’s open house, which takes place Dec. 3 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For more information about the Surrey Christmas Bureau, visit http://christmasbureau.com/

Just Posted

Semiahmoo students to raise awareness about acid throwing

The Grade 11 students are to host a fundraiser for victims

Maritimers bring taste of Atlantic Ocean to South Surrey

Maritime Seafoods owner says they cut out the middleman

VIDEO: Surrey Vaisakhi Parade floods Newton streets

Hundreds of thousands of people attended the annual event

Easter ‘eggstravaganza’ event planned for South Surrey

Event is to run from 12-3 p.m. at Dufferin Park (17355 2 Ave.).

Four Surrey students head to New Brunswick for Canada-wide science fair

Three projects move to nationals following regional fair at KPU

‘No answers:’ Canadians react to Sri Lanka bombings that killed hundreds

The co-ordinated bomb attacks killed at least 207 people and injured 450 more on Easter Sunday

VIDEO: Langley firefighters spend hours battling blaze in vacant home

Cause of the late-night fire in Willoughby is still under investigation

B.C. fire department rescues kittens

Enderby homeowner not aware kittens in wood pile near garbage pile fire that got out of hand

RCMP looking for witnesses to four-vehicle crash in Burnaby

Police suspect impaired driving was a contributing factor

QUIZ: How much do you know about Easter?

Take this short quiz and put your knowledge to the test

B.C. VIEWS: NDP’s lawyer show is turning into a horror movie

Court actions pile up over pipelines, car insurance, care aides

Global Affairs warns Canadians in Sri Lanka there could be more attacks

A series of bomb blasts killed at least 207 people and injured hundreds more

VIDEO: Fan support almost deafening as Giants take Game 2 in finals

Vancouver G-Men cap comeback with thrilling third period to beat Spokane 4-2 on home ice in Langley

Most Read