Four volunteers sit at the end of supermarket cash lanes interviewing applicants. But the tills are silent as the room around them buzzes.
This is no ordinary supermarket, and the customers are not there to check out food – at least not directly.
The hub of activity is at the former site of the Buy Rite grocery store in the Dell Shopping Centre, where people are now registering for the 2013 Surrey Christmas Bureau (SCB).
In the ever-changing interior of this year’s location, checkout aisles are the only original structure left.
Thanks to a team of busy volunteers the area is transforming, but the shelves where families will do their toy shopping remain empty.
“In about a week… it’ll look different again,” says K.C. Gilroy, program coordinator. “We’ll have baby items here, toddler items here, there’ll be pyjamas piled there.
“It’ll be a whole different world.”
The site for the SCB came later than usual this year and took some intense some searching, says Gilroy. Every year the loction has changed because it’s difficult to find a large space with a short lease that fits the bureau’s needs.
After passing on other properties that didn’t fit the organization’s requirements, Bosa Properties came to the SCB’s aide, offering the current site at a reduced lease rate.
The central locale is a bonus, says Gilroy, adding that North Surrey is home to a large proportion of the SCB’s lower-income clients.
One of those residents, Wendy Hernandez, waited in the early morning cold Thursday with her friend Caroline Quinonez (left) in a line-up of about 40 applicants. Some in line had stood outside the SCB for almost an hour to get a number.
“We don’t have money for buying our kids presents,” explains Hernandez stepping inside to warm up. “Everything is expensive and we have three children.”
Hernandez and Quinonez are participating in the program for the second year. Both are grateful for the help and say it made their last Christmas a happy one.
Last year Quinonez participated in the Adopt-a-Family program that matches sponsor families with those in need.
Her six-month-old son, Alan, sits quietly bundled in his stroller. It will be his first Christmas this December, and Quinonez is hoping to be matched a sponsor again this year.
The organization distributes toys and gift cards for groceries to hundreds of low-income families each year. More than 1,800 families are expected this holiday season.
Anyone able to help is asked to call 604-581-9623.
How to help and register
The long-running Surrey Christmas Bureau (SCB) is a non-profit organization that supplies gifts and grocery cards for low-income families in the city.
• The SCB accepts donations of new toys and cash all year, and are particularly in need of gifts for teens. Cash donations will be matched by Gord Bylo and iFund Lending up to $15,000.
• For toy pick-up, call 604-581-9623.
• If you would like to sponsor a family, please contact the Adopt-a-Family program at 604-585-9670.
• This year’s SCB is open for registration for families with a child or children age 18 or under, until Nov. 30, Monday to Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
• The SCB is located at the former Buy Rite building in the Dell Shopping Centre at 10636 King George Blvd.
• For more information, including what documents to bring in order to qualify, call 604-581-9623 or visit the SCB website: christmasbureau.com