Lisa Werring, executive director of Surrey Christmas Bureau, in front of the mostly empty shelves after a break-in at its toy depot last December. (File photo: Lauren Collins)

Lisa Werring, executive director of Surrey Christmas Bureau, in front of the mostly empty shelves after a break-in at its toy depot last December. (File photo: Lauren Collins)

UPDATE: Toy depot site secured by Surrey Christmas Bureau after thieves ruin old Stardust building

‘We are so very relieved and grateful to Fabricana for their kind assistance’

This story has been updated

A company has stepped up to donate space to Surrey Christmas Bureau for its toy depot.

Fabricana is offering its property at 13853 104th Ave., the former Funky Monkey play centre.

“We are so very relieved and grateful to Fabricana for their kind assistance” Lisa Werring, executive director of the Christmas charity, said in a news release Saturday morning. “Maybe they should consider a temporary name change to Santa-Can-a!

“This is a great location,” she added. “It’s large, centrally located and easily accessible via transit. The fact that it was a former children’s play centre seems particularly appropriate to our mission of ensuring children in Surrey are able to look forward to a fun and Merry Christmas with presents under the tree.”

On Thursday (Oct. 22), the organization said it urgently needed a new site for its toy depot, after thieves ruined the former Stardust rollerskating building on City Parkway. The damage was discovered just before the Christmas Bureau was set to move in, for November and December.

(See original story posted below)

The next challenge is ensuring there are sufficient toys and funds to support the Christmas Bureau’s hamper program, Werring said in a news release.

“Once we are settled into the new location, we will be looking for donations of new, unwrapped toys to make sure our shelves are full as well as financial support for our Hamper program so that families are able to enjoy those all important holiday meals together.”

She said the Bureau will post the hours of operation for toy drop offs to the new Toy Depot location on their website and social media channels as soon as they are settled in the new space.

* * *

ORIGINAL STORY POSTED THURSDAY:

The Grinch has again struck Surrey Christmas Bureau.

The organization urgently needs a new site for its toy depot, after thieves ruined the former Stardust rollerskating building on City Parkway.

The vacant building has been used by the Christmas Bureau for the past two years, and was offered again for a third and final year before the site is redeveloped by WestStone and CIBT Education Group.

“Somebody got in there and stripped all the wiring and plumbing, everything — it’s completely unusable,” said Lisa Werring, executive director of the Christmas Bureau.

“So we’re looking for a Christmas miracle and need a space, immediately, very last-minute,” she added. “It’s very frustrating.”

The old Stardust building has been boarded up since last January, after the Christmas Bureau closed its depot for the 2019-20 season, Werring said.

“Lord knows how they got in,” she said about the theft, discovered last week.

“It is a massive challenge every year to find available space, approximately 10,000 square feet, with sufficient open plan space to set up our pop up ‘toy store,’ accessible via transit, with adequate parking, and loading bay capacity big enough for our operations – and all for free,” Werring said in a news release.

“We had been so grateful to have this prime location again this year. Starting a search at this late date is a huge blow, particularly with all of the other challenges we face keeping our clients, volunteers and staff safe during this COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Christmas Bureau is now appealing to any landlord, property manager or building owner who may be able to help with suitable space for use in November and December only.

“We’re hoping for something in the Central Surrey area,” Werring said.

“We need help as soon as possible.”

Last December, thieves broke into toy depot and stole four new laptops and around $6,000 in gift cards meant for teens.

For this year, registration is already underway on a new online system, christmasbureau.com/register. For details, call 604-581-9623.

Surrey Christmas Bureau is considered the largest Christmas charity in B.C., distributing toys and grocery gift cards to an average 2,000 Surrey low-income families annually. The organization expects “record numbers this year as many additional families have been impacted financially during the pandemic this year,” Werring said.

• RELATED STORY: $991K in fed COVID-relief grants given by SurreyCares, with more now available.

The SurreyCares Community Foundation recently granted ​the Christmas Bureau $40,000 to upgrade its registration system to an online platform, purchase and install physical barriers, sanitation stations and provide PPE such as masks and gloves to protect volunteers and clients.

“As the Surrey Christmas Bureau is volunteer run, with a median volunteer age of 65, this project is designed to ensure a safe environment for all staff,” SurreyCares administers said in a news release.

The grant was made possible through the Government of Canada’s new $350 million Emergency Community Support Fund, which saw over $900,000 allocated to SurreyCares.

The former Stardust building is located at 10240 City Parkway. The Stardust sign was removed from the building in the mid-2000s, and the site was used as a Liquidation World store for the next five years. The building was home to Central City Arena for eight years, from 2010 to early 2018. In the fall of 2018 the building served as a temporary home for Integrity Now’s headquarters during the civic election campaign.

In 2016 WestStone Group revealed plans to build a 50-storey “GEC Education Mega Center” tower on the site.

• READ MORE in story from 2016: Developer plans to transform former Stardust site into 50-storey Surrey education centre.



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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