Patty Lester has been a volunteer at the Langley Christmas Bureau for several years, but as the co-ordinator this year, she’s become something of a Pied Piper.
What keeps her coming back year after year is being able to make Christmas for children.
“It’s fun,” Lester said.
That’s a sentiment echoed by three women who are first-time volunteers this year. Debbie Scott spoke to the Langley Advance Times on her very first day of volunteering, noting that Lester has always spoken so enthusiastically about the bureau that Scott wanted to be part of the magic.
“It’s a fantastic place to volunteer,” Scott said.
Last year Barb Kennett helped Lester assemble toy bundles during the pandemic. She is a volunteer who has taken on toy coordination this year. She accompanied others from the bureau on the first buying trip this week. The bureau, which is entirely volunteer run, uses donations to pick up gifts that aren’t typically noted, such as for older children who can be harder to buy for.
“It’s a lot of work and a lot of things to think about and a lot of moving pieces, but I have a great team,” Kennett said.
Donna Smeed has volunteered for many causes in the community but none that allow her to spend her days playing Santa’s elf.
“I wanted to give back to the community,” Smeed said.
They are some of the volunteers people may encounter when they stop by to register to receive gifts or make donations which this year is based at Langley City hall and the Timms Community Centre. Because of that, the bureau is operating a bit differently this year.
The bureau has revamped how it handles registrations and will be distributing toys over several days instead of the traditional three-day Toy Depot. Parents get to select the gifts for their child as they know best what they need or would enjoy.
People who were clients in 2021 are being called by bureau volunteers to set up appointments if they would like to receive gifts this year for their children.
New clients can still register with the bureau which provides Christmas gifts for children of underprivileged Langley families. The children must be between birth and 18, and any who are students must be attending a local public school.
New clients and people wanting information can call the bureau at 604-530-3001. As well, information is on the bureau website about registering to receive help as well as how to donate, how to sponsor a family, and more. The bureau will need about $240,000 in donations this year to provide for the families in need. Last year the bureau helped more than 780 families and given the economy, demand is expected to be higher.
“It’s easily going to be 800 this year,” Lester noted.
She fears it could push closer to 900, because so many people are struggling financially.
The cost for sponsoring a family are laid out on the website. A family of two, for instance, would typically cost $200 to $250 while a family of five would be in the neighbourhood of $400 to $550. The bureau has guidelines on sponsoring a family. Sponsorship should include not only a gift for each child but also gift certificates for food to help the family make it through the holidays. Gift cards allow families to purchase the foods they prefer as well as take into consideration food allergies and any other health issues.
People can donate at City hall, whether they choose to provide gifts suitable for children (no stuffed animals), gift cards, or money.
Lester noted that the bureau will have a booth set up at the new Magic of Christmas festival on Dec. 3 outside of the Timms Community Centre where donations will also be accepted.
The bureau volunteers started their work Nov. 1, and will be all finished and packed up by mid-December.
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