It’s only early October but a small army of volunteers is already gearing up to make Christmas happen for thousands of children across Surrey.
This year, the Surrey Christmas Bureau is returning to the old Stardust building for the second year in a row.
Usually, the charity has to issue a public appeal for leads to find a building to operate out of for the season.
“I’m not calling early this year to beg for space,” laughed Lisa Werring, executive director of Surrey Christmas Bureau.
Though a chilly building, Werring said this year’s venue is arguably the best location the charity has ever had both in terms of visibility for the public and ease of access for clients.
“Last year we had folks running to catch the train, or running over to the mall to buy toys for us. It’s getting really hard in Surrey to find these locations,” she said. “And this will be the last year here. I hear the building’s coming down soon after, unfortunately.”
“It’ll be the building’s last hurrah.”
Werring thanked the “generous donors” who provided the building, WestStone Group and CIBT.
“We are so grateful for their support again this year,” she said. “They are true community leaders.”
Last year the bureau helped 2,007 families which included 4,449 children, said Werring.
“That broke our records, as we expected,” she told the Now-Leader. “We were expecting over 2,000 families, and we anticipate that to go up again this year. It seems to go up roughly 10 per cent year over year, which is kind of equivalent to the number of families coming into Surrey.”
The Christmas bureau’s clientele come from all over Surrey, Werring explained.
“A lot of folks think our clients will be from lower economic demographic areas, but Surrey is an interesting city. Even in perhaps more affluent neighbourhoods that have one or two basement suites in them, the economics of families in suites are quite different than the folks upstairs.”
The ethnic makeup of clients is also diverse, she said, praising the Muslim Food Bank for its efforts in helping with Arabic language translation for clients who need it.
Registration for those needing support this Christmas is set to begin at the 2019 toy depot, at 10240 City Pkwy., starting Tuesday, Nov. 5 at 9:30 a.m.
After that, they’ll be open Monday to Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. for registrations, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for toy drop offs and donations.
Werring is urging registrants not to come in the early morning hours to register, as in year’s past, clients have arrived as early as 5 a.m. to ensure they get their foot in the door.
“We don’t like people to stand in the rain,” said Werring. “I think everybody thinks if they get there the first day, they have to get there right away to register. We’re there for the entire month of November and into December for registrations. People will do it – but it breaks my heart to see people standing in the rain and freezing in the cold.”
As the holiday season approaches, the Surrey Food Bank and Surrey Christmas Bureau are joining forces in holding a “Harnessing Hope” fundraiser, an evening at the races at Elements Casino. It’s set for 5 p.m. Oct. 17 and the event will include a live and silent auction. Tickets are on sale at the Surrey Food Bank’s Facebook page for $40.
“We serve the same clients,” said Werring of the two charities. “The folks who go to the food bank are the same clients who come to us at Christmas, so it makes sense to work together.”
The charities previously teamed up for a “Christmas in July” event at Guildford Town Centre, and decided to do so again.
“We’re hoping to have a really fun night, we have some really cool auction items,” she said.
“We have a Santa who will be auctioning himself off,” Werring added with a laugh, explaining the winner will be able to have Santa at their event or party.
Food bank executive director Feezah Jaffer said “we thought this would be a wonderful thing to do to raise awareness that both our clientele need support all year round, not just at the holiday season.”