How quarantine and the Christmas Bureau helped one grandmother secure gifts for her grandchildren

For many, this year’s festive season is one of anticipation but for others, this is a time of worry and uncertainty. Our celebrations on the 25th are therefore not like Christmas ‘as usual.’ While COVID-19 has touched us all in different ways, from job layoffs to mental health struggles and the loss of loved ones, vulnerable community members experiencing poverty every day are facing increased struggles this December.


We met again with Lisa Werring, the Executive Director of the Surrey Christmas Bureau, to make a quick delivery of gifts and toys, to talk about how they have been using our Emergency Community Support Fund grant of $40,000 and to learn about this year’s unprecedented demand for support.


With less than a week until Christmas, the added expenditures for meals and gifts are increasingly burdensome on low-income families. As the largest Christmas charity in British Columbia, the Surrey Christmas Bureau usually serves about 2,000 families every year. Most of their work is face-to-face providing toys and grocery gift hampers. As a grassroots non-profit organization, the Bureau relies on a couple hundred volunteers to support their projects, which allow them to provide families with food, toys, books and clothing to alleviate holiday stress. This year, they have helped more families than ever before!


Lisa reiterated that the funds went directly to their COVID-19 readiness project which consisted of personal protective equipment and an upgraded user-friendly registration system which has helped maintain the safety of their staff, volunteers and clients. She explained that “we’ve even been able to help a grandmother who is raising her grandchildren. She had never been able to apply to the Christmas Bureau before because she’s physically unable to stand in line. As she was good with her phone, she was able to apply and get some gifts for her grandsons!” She added that “the Emergency Community Support Fund has proven to be an enormous help to the Christmas Bureau. Of course, due to COVID, we really had to change our operational procedures, and this has enabled clients to register right from their homes” and to receive gifts and meal gift cards in time for this year’s Christmas.


The grant is made possible through the Government of Canada's $350 million Emergency Community Support Fund, which saw over $900,000 allocated to SurreyCares in its first round.


Christine Buttkus, Executive Director of SurreyCares, stated that "the Bureau has grown rapidly and has helped to make this year’s holiday celebrations enjoyable for many low-income families. With COVID-19 regulations, social gatherings outside of our core personal bubbles have been suspended so it’s really important that we stay safe this Christmas while making the day as special as possible for everyone, remembering that the need for support will continue into the new year.”


This is the 5th year in a row that we have partnered with the CIBC Reedman Yarmoshuk Group at CIBC Wood Gundy to deliver much-needed gifts to the Surrey Christmas Bureau. The Yarmoshuks and staff were very generous despite COVID-19 and the contributions were much appreciated in filling the last of the requests from families.


The Emergency Community Support Fund is being delivered through a national partnership with Community Foundations of Canada, United Way Centraide Canada and the Canadian Red Cross. 


The Christmas Bureau’s Client Registration has now closed for this year as they reached their capacity due to COVID-19 restrictions.


To learn more about the Christmas Bureau and to find ways to give, visit their website at https://christmasbureau.com/.

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