‘Huge impact’: Pop-up Christmas tree lots raise money for New Brunswick newcomers

The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service is warning Winnipeggers about the fire hazards of real Christmas trees. Callum Smith / Global News

The shuttering of three IKEA stores in Ontario due to COVID-19 restrictions recently forced the furniture giant to move their lot of live Christmas trees — and fast.

The donation came through Canada’s Furniture Bank Network (FBN), which helps reuse “unwanted items in support of social goals within communities across Canada,” a release from the New Brunswick Multicultural Council says.

3,200 trees were gifted to the council after discussions within the past week.

“The trees themselves are supplied from G.A.R. Tree Farms, a local grower of balsam fir in Nova Scotia,” a council release says.

As a result, pop-up Christmas tree stands were formed in Moncton, Fredericton and Saint John starting Saturday morning. All proceeds will go support newcomer family emergency relief funds between the three cities.

In Moncton, the money will be going to the Multicultural Association of the Greater Moncton Area (MAGMA).

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Myriam Mekni, the executive director of MAGMA, says the support will have a huge impact on the non-profit. Callum Smith / Global News

“It’s going to be a huge impact,” said Myriam Mekni, the executive director of MAGMA.

The fund will help support things like food, medication and shelter for families.

“Needs that we think are basic but are usually more complicated for newcomers,” she says.

Newcomers have a lot of work ahead of them upon arrival, she says, and may not have local family support.

“Part of those steps are paperwork like medicare, social insurance number, get a job and all that,” Mekni said. “And that was not possible when… there were families that came here and the next day we had to lockdown.”

The trees are sold at $25 each. The Moncton location is set up at the Canadian Tire on Mountain Road.

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The other pop ups are being held at the Irving Oil Field House in Saint John and at the Multicultural Association of Fredericton on Saunders Street.

Money raised in Saint John will support the Saint John Newcomers Centre and Saint John YMCA Newcomer Connections programs.

Hakim Mestassi, the community connection manager for MAGMA, came to New Brunswick from Morocco about 14 years ago.

Read more: Canada will need newcomers after coronavirus pandemic, immigration minister says

He handled the logistics of the Moncton delivery, along with help from 30 volunteers.

“We received those 800 trees and we lined them up, as you can see, in less than an hour,” he says in an interview. “The truck driver was amazed.”

He says Christmas is celebrated in Morocco, but not to the same degree as in Canada.

Asked if he ever thought he’d be trimming trees with a chainsaw, Mestassi laughed and said, “Never in a million years.”

“Today was the first time that I cut the trees.”

For Steve and Jennifer Langen, who have a friend who works for MAGMA, they say it was nice to support the organization.

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Read more: Decline in newcomers becoming Canadian citizens tied to income, study suggests

“MAGMA does a lot of really good things in the community and the city all around, so it feels good to give back to a cause that we know is going to be worth it,” Steve says.

Bill Nichol and his wife Flor Aguilar volunteered for MAGMA shortly after she immigrated to Canada from Costa Rica 10 years ago.

They came to support the cause — and it sounds like they made out well.

“I was expecting a very difficult time because my wife is very fussy,” Nichol chuckled with Aguilar by his side. “But it went super well today.”

“We have a tree already!” Aguilar said.

“We only looked at two!” Nichol exclaimed. “Usually, we look at 15!”

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