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Dignity and choice at the heart of new UGM Christmas hamper program

UGM volunteers prepare Christmas hampers.
UGM volunteers prepare Christmas hampers. Union Gospel Mission / Facebook

Every year, Vancouver’s Union Gospel Mission gives out hundreds of Christmas hampers to families, singles and seniors in need.

This year, the organization says it’s changing up the way it handles its hamper program for families, in order to give them a little more freedom.

“A lot of families in the Downtown Eastside work really hard the whole year long for their families. And then at Christmas, they don’t really have the say over what presents are given to their kids, or what they’re going to eat,” said spokesperson Jeremy Hunka.

READ MORE: Union Gospel Mission dishes up 3,000 meals for annual Christmas dinner

In response, Hunka said the mission will now have families “shop” for the items in their hampers in a pop up “store.”

“Registered families can come, choose what they want, toys for their families, they’ll get gift cards so that they can buy a Christmas meal at a grocery store, and have some dignity restored through choice.”

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In exchange, family members need to be willing to either volunteer in the pop up store, or take a free financial literacy workshop, Hunka said.

READ MORE: Union Gospel Mission serving up 3,000 Thanksgiving meals in Vancouver’s DTES

Hunka said the volunteers shifts and workshops are a way of leveraging the hampers to create lasting change in recipients lives, though he said UGM will make exceptions for people who genuinely can’t attend.

He added that the mission is still giving out hampers to seniors and singles in the traditional way.

The new Gifts of Hope hamper program for families launches on Monday.