Surrey Christmas Bureau welcomes new leader, but in need of home for the holidays

Ideally, the bureau needs 15,000 square feet of warehouse or retail space

After longtime Surrey Christmas Bureau director KC Gilroy hung up her sleigh bells in June, another self-described “Christmas nut” has signed on to lead the charity.

“I have some big shoes to fill,” said new executive director Lisa Werring, who has spent much of her career in the non-profit sector, largely helping vulnerable children.

Lisa Werring, Surrey Christmas Bureau

Most recently, she served as executive director at Learning Buddies Network, which provided free tutoring to elementary students in the Lower Mainland. Before that, she was the Western Canada operator for Breakfast for Learning.

“So this fits right in,” she said of her new position in Surrey, a city she’s called home 27 years.

What also fits right in is her passion for Christmas.

“It couldn’t be more perfect, it combines my professional passion with my personal one. My favourite Christmas movie is It’s A Wonderful Life. I’ve been known to watch that in July if I’m feeling blue,” she laughed.

But Werring said in all seriousness, the need in Surrey is great.

“We helped just under 2,000 families last year, and that included more than 4,000 children. All of that is done with the help of about 125 volunteers that work very hard during those months at our toy depot,” she said. “Think about the impact it has on a child if they don’t have a Christmas. If it was 4,000 kids who didn’t have a Christmas? It’s astonishing to think that could happen and we’re happy to be in a position to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

SEE ALSO: LETTER: Surrey showed its true colours with its Christmas generosity

Like almost every other year, the charity is scrambling to find a home for the holiday.

As former leader Gilroy always said, the group finds itself “one step ahead of the bulldozer,” often operating out of empty grocery stores, warehouses or open plan offices.

Last year, the bureau set up shot in the former Brick store across from Surrey City Hall.

“Unfortunately, that is not available to us this year so we are on the hunt, in very short order,” explained Werring.

Ideally, the bureau needs 15,000 square feet of warehouse or retail space with a loading bay and parking, and like to move in by Nov. 1, but Werring said they “could probably make do with 10,000 in a pinch, but it would be cozy.”

It’s also important to be central, said Werring, because many of their clients travel on transit.

“We were so lucky last year to have the support of Bosa, they donated the space last year so it was absolutely incredibly generous, probably the best location we’ve ever had,” she said. “It’s a blessing to see Surrey developing so well and coming along with a downtown core, but paradoxically it makes it difficult to find that kind of space. But I know we will find one.”

While it’s challenging to find a home each year, Werring said it’s equally difficult to keep up with the need in Surrey, which is great.

Historically, said Werring, the bureau’s number of clients grows about 10 per cent a year, but last year, there was a “sharp uptick” to almost 15 per cent.

“That was largely driven by an influx of families needing help that were from outside of Canada, refugee families, who were new to the area and settling here it Surrey,” she added.

But it’s all demographics, Werring noted.

“As young people who are starting families can’t afford the life in Vancouver, they’re now moving out to wonderful Surrey where it’s a bit more affordable to live.”

One of Werring’s long-term goals for the operation is to find a permanent home, like the Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau has.

“That would be ideal,” she said. “And to be able to ramp up capacity so we can meet the need.

“No family is alone. We’re here. We’re friends. And we’re going to help.”

Anyone wishing to volunteer, or can help with a space for the Christmas bureau to call home this holiday season can call 604-581-9623.

More information on the charity can be found at christmasbureau.com.



amy.reid@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook and follow Amy on Twitter

Just Posted

City of Surrey to remove eight dead trees along stretch of road where SUV was hit

Assessment confirms tree that fell was dead; others to be removed ‘early this week’

New Surrey Police force ‘swallowing up’ city’s funds, Annis says

City councillor says draft city budget shows new force coming at expense of ‘everything else’ in the city

Guitar ‘swap & sale’ planned at Cloverdale’s Shannon Hall

40-plus vendors are signed up for event on Saturday, Nov. 23

Panthers storm to playoff victory over Hyacks

Cloverdale’s Lord Tweedsmuir stuns New West in big win in B.C. high school football AAA playoff semifinals

CCTV cameras help Surrey RCMP arrest two bank robbery suspects

The robberies were in North Surrey on Nov. 7 and Oct. 1

Cold, stormy winter forecast across much of Canada, The Weather Network predicts

In British Columbia temperatures will be slightly above normal and precipitation will be just below normal

Trans Mountain received $320M in government subsidies in first half 2019: report

The money included $135.8 million in direct subsidies and $183.8 million in indirect subsidies

Ottawa urges CN and union to continue talks as 3,200 workers go on strike

The rail workers began their strike after failing to reach a deal by a midnight deadline

UPDATED: Vancouver Island’s Joe gets suspended sentence in Teddy the dog cruelty case

Melissa Tooshley expected in court on Thursday in same case

Nineteen boats carrying invasive mussels stopped at B.C. borders

Waters of Columbia-Shuswap still test mussel-free

Woman ‘horrified’ after being told to trek 200 kilometres home from Kamloops hospital

‘I can’t get from Kamloops back to 100 Mile House injured, confused… no shoes, no clothes whatsoever’

Sentencing scheduled Tuesday for man who killed Belgian tourist

Sean McKenzie pleaded guilty to second-degree murder of 28-year-old Amelie Sakkalis near Boston Bar

Canadian universities encourage exchange students in Hong Kong to head home

UBC said 11 of its 32 students completing programs in Hong Kong have already left

Midget no more: Sweeping division name changes coming to minor hockey in Canada

Alpha-numeric division names will be used for the 2020-2021 season and beyond

Most Read