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Surrey Christmas Bureau executive director says it’s going to be a ‘record year’

Group moved into the former Safeway in Whalley in November
The Surrey Christmas Bureau, pictured on Dec. 4, 2021, moved into a new location in November, at the former Safeway in Whalley. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

The Surrey Christmas Bureau has moved into a new location that the executive director says is “the best space we’ve ever had.”

Lisa Werring said the Christmas bureau moved into the former Whalley Safeway in November, after online registration opened in October. The space was donated by “Santa’s helpers,” Sobeys and Crombie Property Holdings Ltd.

It is huge. They made me laugh when the lady first called and apologized for leaving up the shelves,” said Werring, noting the bureau would normally have to rent and assemble shelving for the toys.

READ ALSO: Online registration now open for Surrey Christmas Bureau, Oct. 22, 2021

Registration for families closed at 4 p.m. on Saturday (Dec. 4), Werring said, and the bureau was expecting a “record year.”

Lisa Werring, Surrey Christmas Bureau, executive director (Photo: Lauren Collins)
“We are well over 2,000 families registered already,” she told the Now-Leader the day registration was set to close. “It’s a record year for us, entirely. There’s over 2,000 already submitted. There’s another 300 in progress that will probably be submitted by 4 o’clock today, which will probably take us up into territory we’ve never been before.”

She said the previous record was about 2,000 families and this year they’re “well over it.”

“A lot of people have had struggles this year, whether they’ve had job losses due to the pandemic or, sadly, have lost somebody due to the pandemic who was an income earner in the household. It’s been difficult for everybody.”

Families have been picking up toys at the depot since Nov. 23, she said, adding about 65 families come in a day, with about three children per family.

“It’s a lot of toys everyday and kids are getting a small, medium and a large toy and a Christmas stocking, so our inventory needs constant replenishing.”

In addition, Werring said the Surrey Christmas Bureau’s grocery hamper budget is “extremely stretched.”

“We, on an average year, will spend about $150,000 to $175,000 on the grocery voucher program and we are definitely going to be far in excess of that. It might well be approaching closer to $200,000 this year.”

With that, Werring said the bureau is in need of lots of toys, as well as financial donations.

But she noted it’s been a challenging year for everyone throughout the province.

“Obviously, communities all over the Lower Mainland and throughout B.C. are struggling with the impacts of the devastating floods and landslides and the heat dome in the summer. It’s put a strain on the fundraising capacity of a lot of organizations,” she explained.

“We totally understand people are supporting those who need help right now with floods. It’s a challenging environment for everybody.”

This year, Werring said the Christmas bureau needs toy donations for all ages, noting that they usually are in need of mostly gifts for teens.

“This year, oddly, we need all ages. We are always struggling with teens, everybody knows that. That’s a challenging category for every Christmas agency.”

For a wish list, people can visit The toy depot, located at 10355 King George Blvd., is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for in-person donations. People can also drop off toy donations at fire halls across the city.

People can also choose the adopt-a-family program, which matches individuals, businesses and other organizations with a family in need that has children under the age of 18.

Reya Mathews, a co-op student a SFU, is helping out with the Surrey Christmas Bureau's adopt-a-family program. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Reya Mathews, an arts and social sciences student at Simon Fraser University, is working with the program this year. The bureau received a grant this year to hire Mathews through her co-op program at SFU.

Mathews said she’s working with about 500 families so far this year, but she was hoping to be able to match another 100 families.

“They actually form bonds, like this year … I’ve got a couple of families calling back and asking, ‘The family that we sponsored last year, can we sponsor them again?’ because they’ve been talking throughout the year.”

She added it’s been a very “humbling” experience.

“Being in university, our definition of ‘oh my God, my life is so hard,’ is so different,” said Mathews. ‘It’s very grounding, I would say.”

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Lauren Collins

About the Author: Lauren Collins

I'm a provincial reporter for Black Press Media's national team, after my journalism career took me across B.C. since I was 19 years old.
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