Donations down at Surrey Christmas Bureau as need rises

Click to play video: 'A plea to help the Surrey Christmas Bureau'
A plea to help the Surrey Christmas Bureau
WATCH: Donations are down and requests are up at the Surrey Christmas Bureau. Julia Foy has more on how you can help – Dec 18, 2016

The Surrey Christmas Bureau is seeing a drop in donations this year while need in the area is rising, a trend that appears to be affecting charities throughout the country.

The Bureau accepts donations of toys, games and clothing for children and teens, as well as cash that is used toward grocery gift cards for families. Unlike many other charities, the Bureau is run like a store without price tags, where parents can browse the aisles and pick out what they’d like for their children.

But coordinator K.C. Gilroy says the shelves are a little more bare compared to previous years.

“People are coming into the city for slightly lower rents, so we have a growth, and with that growth has been a growth in need,” Gilroy said. “The other factor is that, for whatever reason, the donations of actual items has been slower this year.”

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Gilroy and other charities are having a hard time pinpointing exactly why donations are down, suggesting everything from donor fatigue to people delaying their shopping due to Christmas falling on a Sunday.

READ MORE: Charitable giving in Canada drops to 10-year low, according to tax data

But with the Bureau registering nearly 2,000 families this year — a new record — Gilroy doesn’t have time to analyze the potential reasons. She can only try to help drive donations back up, particularly when it comes to items for infants and teens.

“Things like sporting goods for teens are really important: we can’t keep basketballs on the shelves, we can’t keep soccer balls,” Gilroy said. “If we can get things like art sets, solid coloured T-shirts, hoodies in the teenage range, that would be wonderful. Pajamas…. We never have enough.”

Gilroy says that cash donations are also down, much like many other charities across Canada. She estimates the dip is around five per cent, although she quickly added that with the growth in need, the decrease is more like 20 per cent “if we were to service all that need.”

“We’re doing so much good here”

Despite the decrease in donations, spirits are still high among both charity staff and those who stop in to donate.

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Harry Stiles, who came to Vancouver from Australia, says he joined the Surrey Christmas Bureau as a way to give back during the holiday season. Since he has no family in the country to spend Christmas with, he wanted to help other families have a better holiday.

“We’re doing so much good here, and it’s so easy to do, it’s just a little bit of my time,” Stiles said.

“These people who may not ordinarily have Christmas gifts to give out, they do get something. They get something to open on the day, which as a child I took for granted. So coming here and seeing that, in the smallest possible way…you know, what else could I ask for?”

Mary, who wouldn’t give her last name, was moved to tears while bringing in many large boxes of donations, as she recalled being a beneficiary of the charity many years ago.

“It’s great to give back…it’s a real privilege,” she said. “This year, my son and I decided that this was going to be our Christmas. This is my Christmas Day celebration, to give back.”

Registration for families in need closed Dec. 2, but donations are still open. To learn more about how to donate to the Surrey Christmas Bureau, visit their website at

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