A Langley Times newspaper clipping of Brookswood Secondary students building toys for Langley Christmas Bureau families. Published Dec. 19, 1987. (Langley Advance Times files)

A Langley Times newspaper clipping of Brookswood Secondary students building toys for Langley Christmas Bureau families. Published Dec. 19, 1987. (Langley Advance Times files)

Beginnings of Langley Christmas Bureau unclear

A look back at a Langley holiday institution

Langley Christmas Bureau has been a perennial in the community, but the origin story of the local charity remains a bit of a mystery.

Although the local bureau wasn’t founded by Iris Mooney, the Langley Memorial Hospital nurse and Langley City alderman was the earliest coordinator some members of the community could recall.

Langley Advance Times spoke with City councillor and former bureau volunteer Gayle Martin, former City mayor Marlene Grinnell, one-time coordinator and former City fire chief Jim McGregor, local historian Warren Sommer and long-time bureau volunteer Sylvia Anderson about what they remembered about its early days.

Anderson said she started volunteering with the Langley bureau when she first moved to the community in 1971.

She recalls Mooney leading the volunteer-run charity operating out of the old Langley City hall at the time.

“[She was] very proactive and way ahead of her time,” Anderson noted about Mooney’s work ethic.

READ MORE: Iris Mooney passes away

It is not known when Mooney retired from the position or who took on the role after her, but a 1982 story from the Langley Advance Times archive refers to Township of Langley alderman Carol Gran as coordinator, who was said to have been preceded by Township alderman Muriel Arnason.

Also from the archive, a 1999 story states “after three years of running things, Ken Bain turned over the reins of Langley Christmas Bureau operations to Joan Chesney.”

In 2006, McGregor said he and Leigh Castron took over coordinating responsibilities from Chesney. The pair went on to run the bureau for 10 years, stepping back from the role just ahead of the 2016 season.

Today, the bureau is lead by Velma MacAllister.

Although many details remain murky, one thing that has remained consistent is the bureau has never had a home-base, according to McGregor.

Ahead of each holiday season the coordinator would work to secure a temporary home where volunteers could collect donations and organize to distribute supplies.

“[We] always looked for a place on a bus route,” said McGregor, noting the importance of being accessible to those in need of the bureau’s support.

Over the years the bureau has taken up space in a former liquor store, Bible store, bank, and Blockbuster, McGregor recalls.

“It would never work without the community and the volunteers,” he said.

Do you have history about the Langley Christmas Bureau to share? Contact us at tips@langleyadvancetimes.com.


@JotiGrewal_
joti.grewal@blackpress.ca

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