Erica Beckstead, founder of Whalley Santa Cause, stands on 135A Street in Surrey in advance of Christmas Day, when she and volunteers will hand out hampers to the homeless. (Photo: Amy Reid)

VIDEO: Volunteers, donations needed as ‘Whalley Santa Cause’ returns to Surrey’s 135A Street

Volunteers will descend on the Surrey ‘Strip’ to give hampers to homeless on Christmas Day, but help is needed

While many Surrey residents are enjoying time with family in the warm comfort of their homes on Christmas Day, a growing group of volunteers will hit the streets to make the holiday a little brighter for those who are less fortunate.

The event is dubbed the “Whalley Santa Cause” and involves a legion of volunteers descending into the toughest zone in Surrey to hand out hampers to those who need them most.

This year, the team will hit the streets with hampers from 1 to 3 p.m. on Christmas Day.

Hampers will be packed full of toiletries, winter clothing and other essential items to help the community’s most vulnerable.

See also: Surrey urged to ‘rethink how they donate’ after mess on 135A Street

But event founder Erica Beckstead is still in search of donations — and volunteers — for this year’s outing.

While about 50 people came out to help last Christmas, handing out 500 hampers, the number of helpers and hampers are far shy of that as of mid-December.

Beckstead is in need of new personal hygiene items such as deodorant, tooth brushes, shampoo, conditioner, hair brushes, socks, and so on. Gently used sweaters, scarves and gloves are also needed.

She urged those with donations to get in touch soon, as the need is great on Surrey streets.

“The reason why I started it is I’m a former drug addict,” explained Beckstead, who founded the charity in 2011.

“I used to be one of these people. I’m 10 years sober,” she said, standing next to tent city on 135A Street, unloading blankets from her car to hand out on a cold December afternoon.

“I didn’t live in tents on the street but I was very close. I used to live out of a suitcase and I lived on King George and I’ve done a full circle. I’ve totally changed my life around with the help of strangers.”

It’s why she pays it forward to others.

See more: Former Surrey addict makes giving a priority in Whalley (Jan. 8, 2015

Beckstead said she hit bottom in 2007, when she was “kidnapped and almost raped” in pursuit of more drugs. After that, she said she cleaned up her act and accepted a job with Club Med in Florida, where she says she detoxed.

As part of the Club Med gig, she found herself staying in some rather posh hotels, and realized she’d collected a few too many toiletries from a few too many luxury washrooms. It seemed like a good idea to give them away back home in Whalley.

“One day I thought, what am I going to do with all this soap?” Beckstead said. “That’s when I came to the realization of giving back to my community. I wanted to make a small difference in the lives of others. So I started wrapping all my hotel toiletries into beautifully wrapped Christmas hampers and I only had only a few volunteers (in 2011).”

The fentanyl epidemic that has claimed more than 1,000 lives in B.C. so far this year only motivates Beckstead more.

See also: Average of 15 die of overdose each month in Surrey in 2017

See more: Count finds 49 per cent more homeless people in Surrey

She noted while Surrey is the second largest city in B.C., known for having a diverse community and a great place to live for culture and community activities, “we also have homelessness and poverty.”

“A huge number of homeless and drug addicted people are living on the streets or in a shelter, or some find treatment in our recovery homes,” she said. “So there is a huge need for helping people.”

An average of 15 people have died of overdose each month in Surrey in 2017.

“This community needs our help in so many ways,” she added.

See also: Video of Surrey’s tent city on 135A street goes viral

See also: Province not helping house Surrey’s homeless fast enough: mayor

Asked what keeps her coming back to 135A Street, year after year, Beckstead replied, “this keeps me sober.”

“It keeps me grateful for the things I do have,” she smiled.

“It’s very cold outside and they need help. They’re very kind, they appreciate the help. They really, really do.”

To get involved, or to donate, call Beckstead at 778-233-4344, email whalleysantacause@hotmail.com or visit whalleysantacause.yolasite.com.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey Fire Fighters Charitable Society doing ‘better than we were expecting’ amid COVID-19

At one point, the board thought it might have a donation shortfall of $250,000

Man arrested in ‘after-hours club crackdown’ in Whalley, Surrey RCMP say

Police say they received information about clubs, parties ‘springing up’ at commercial properties

Wrong-way driver triggers multi-vehicle collision on Highway 99 in South Surrey

Police received multiple reports of vehicle heading north in southbound lanes

53 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths cap off week of high infection rates in B.C.

Roughly 1,500 people are self-isolating because they either have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it

3 Vancouver police officers test positive for COVID after responding to large party

Union president says other officers are self-isolating due to possible exposure

New mothers with COVID-19 should still breastfeed: Canada’s top doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam made the recommendation during World Breastfeeding Awareness Week

Collapse of Nunavut ice shelf ‘like losing a good friend:’ glaciologist

The ice shelf on the northwestern edge of Ellesmere Island has shrunk 43 per cent

PHOTOS: Moving day for 110-year-old Fraser Valley heritage house

Chilliwack heritage house makes 1.7-kilometre journey to new location

Plainclothes Abbotsford police officer deletes cellphone video after drawing gun on innocent man

‘They never asked me what I was doing there, strictly came out with guns, threatening to shoot me’

CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for Aug. 7

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Construction underway on Langley’s new hospice residence

The new 15-bed facility is slated for completion in summer 2021

50-year-old time capsule unsealed at Abbotsford International Airport

Capsule sealed by former PM Pierre E. Trudeau in 1970, when event became ‘Canada’s National Airshow’

Most Read