SURREY — It was a day that reminds you why people leave B.C. for the winter. The rain was bad enough but add in gale force winds and you have one nasty November afternoon.
Over at the Comfort Inn on Fraser Highway, 23-year-old Kylene Bugden kept the faith. In charge of the Surrey Christmas Bureau’s “Stuff the Bus” event, where locals were invited to fill a tour bus with Christmas donations, she watched helplessly as the storm kept the crowds away. But if she was disappointed, you wouldn’t know it from talking to her.
“I was lucky,” said Bugden, who oversees event planning and social media for Surrey Christmas Bureau. “I grew up in a family where we had everything we needed. But it’s been eye-opening to see the level of need in Surrey. It’s just the look on their faces… that such a small bit can make such a huge difference for someone….that something you’re doing is helping others so much.”
Later that evening, Bugden would supervise a teddy bear toss at South Surrey Arena and a co-promotion at a Cloverdale wrestling event. It was all part of the bureau’s final push for Christmas 2015, and it was also one of the final big days in Bugden’s tenure. Come January, she’ll leave the bureau and head back to school.
It’s a familiar scenario for the bureau, which brings on a student intern for a few months each year as part of a co-op program with SFU. But Bugden doesn’t see January as an end to her involvement.
“It’s struck really close to home for me. My ‘moment’ came when a lady who works near the depot found out she got sponsored. She was so excited that tears were just about coming down her face.
“So even though I will be technically finished working in January, I want to come back and volunteer or be part of the society itself.”
To donate, go to the Christmas Bureau depot at 14885 108th Ave or any Surrey firehall. Deadline is Dec 23. For more information, visit Christmasbureau.com.
A half hour later and a couple miles away in the bureau’s 2015 depot, in an old supermarket on 108th Ave., co-ordinator KC Gilroy spoke of their most pressing needs in its Christmas countdown.
“The teen aisle is pathetic,” she said in her no-nonsense way.
She pointed to several empty shelves and said, simply, “Basketballs. We need basketballs. Kids love basketballs.”
She thought for a moment, then rattled off more suggestions for teens.
“Gift cards are in high demand. McDonald’s, Old Navy, Walmart, Subway, Sport Chek. Twenty-five-dollar cards are great.”
Gilroy would love to see more art supplies and musical instruments such as guitars too. And of course, money. This year is especially tough because corporate monetary donations are down.
We walked around a room divider into an area the public cannot go. There, at a folding table in the “Used” section, volunteer Margaret Lloyd waded through several large bags of donations. She told me she once ran a daycare, then worked at Walmart for a number of years before retiring over health concerns. But, she says, she “got bored.”
Lloyd, 64, is a serial giver. She washes dishes at the Surrey Urban Mission all year long, then returns to the bureau, six days a week, during the two months each year that its depot is open.
“I like working here because the people are so nice and they’re so appreciative for what they get and how much they get.”
Lloyd looked around the facility and talked about the other volunteers like a proud mother. One of those volunteers is Ryan Bath, 23, a structural engineer with Delta-based Structure Craft.
“My boss sent around an email saying they’d be collecting toys for the Surrey Christmas Bureau, so I emailed him after and said I’d be interested in helping out.”
Bath joked that he should be cleaning his house but then “I wouldn’t have time to come here.” He says he’ll come back every weekend he can and “then do it all again next year.”
I believe him.