SURREY — Volunteers with the Whalley Santa Cause initiative will again spread some joy on Christmas Day, but they need some help.
They’re low on donations that fill the small hampers given to people who live on Surrey’s toughest streets.
On Dec. 25 every year since 2011, project leader Erica Beckstead and others have walked “The Strip” handing out gift baskets to those in need.
“I have, like, no donations yet, and it’s already into December and I’m freaking out a bit,” Beckstead told the Now.
“Last year, two months before, my whole living room was filled with stuff,” she added. “A (TV program) was done about it last year, and that’s how I got a lot of stuff last time.”
A former crack addict who once lived on the street, Beckstead cleaned up her act and eventually decided to make a difference by launching the Whalley Santa Cause project.
One job took her to some posh hotels, from which she collected toiletries to give to those in need.
“I’d grab all the soaps and shampoos, so that’s what started this,” said Beckstead, who now works as a makeup artist. “We started these gift bags, and they’re travel-sized because a lot of the people who receive this stuff don’t want to carry around big bottles of shampoo or whatever.”
Food, clothing and other items are added to the gift bags, she said.
“We see a lot of hurt,” Beckstead revealed.
“Last year I brought my son, who was 22 at the time, and we saw a guy preparing his heroin right there on the street, getting ready to inject it. And the year before that we saw a girl who was beaten up by her john – her whole face was bloody and we had to call an ambulance, just completely out of it. It was awful.
“It really gets to me,” she added, “because I live three blocks away in a comfortable home, and some of these people really need help.”
So far this year, around a dozen people have promised to take part in Whalley Santa Cause – a far cry from the 30 who participated last year, Beckstead noted. But it’s still early, and she encourages those who want to take part – and donate – to visit the group online, at Facebook.com/WhalleySantaCause, call her at 778-233-4344 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Whalley Santa Cause group will meet at 1 p.m. Christmas Day at the Gateway SkyTrain station, near the taxis.
“It doesn’t take more than two hours,” Beckstead said.