One of B.C.’s biggest Christmas charities is sounding the alarm about a surge in demand this holiday season, and not enough donations to meet it.
The Surrey Christmas Bureau typically serves about 2,000 families a year, helping ensure smiles and good memories on Christmas Day.
Ikome Nanje’s family is among the 2022 beneficiaries. This is the first Christmas his nine-year-old daughter will spend in Canada after moving from Cameroon, the father said, but rising costs of living have hit her parents hard.
“Big time, because I brought them in just on the 29 of September,” he told Global News.
“It has been very tough for me with the inflation, things are rising up a lot. It’s not easy for us to make food in the house … but I’m happy for them.”
The Surrey Christmas Bureau usually provides families with a small, medium and large toy for each child, along with a grocery voucher big enough to cover breakfast, lunch and dinner on the holiday.
Last year, that translated to toys for 4,500 kids, and $190,000-worth of vouchers for 21,000 meals, according to executive director Lisa Werring.
Among surging inflation, however, the numbers are shaping up differently this year. The charity expects to serve more than 5,000 children just as its usual donor pool is also being pinched.
“We’re seeing a lot of families that are the working poor, that are at or below the poverty, line that are coming to us for help — they just can’t make it by. The inflation pressure on groceries, on everything really, is really hurting the bottom line for families and frankly for our donors as well,” Werring explained.
“We’ve seen a decline in the toy donations … donors out there are doing their very best, but everything has gotten more expensive, and everything is stretching the pocket book of the individual donor out there and even some of the corporations that support us as well.”
Werring said the charity is concerned that if donations don’t improve, it may have to reformulate what it gives to families in order to ensure they serve all of their clients.
That could mean cutting back from three toys to two per child.
“We’re having to make some decisions to stretch our inventory to make sure we can help every family that’s coming to us right now,” she said.
“We’re certainly feeling the pinch and seeing the need.”
The charity is hoping to avoid those kinds of tough decisions, and to instead continue to help provide the kinds of Christmas Days they always have for families like Nanje’s.
“I’ve never known this kind of gift comes, that someone would connect us in the time we need to have that connection, to feel the Christmas Bureau,” Nanje said.
“We came here, we didn’t know this would be so fantastic and wonderful. Today we came to get just one toy and go, they said, ‘Take, take, take,’ so we are shining, we are so blessed and happy.”
Werring said the charity is particularly in need of toys for girls of all ages, along with toys for boys aged nine to 12 years old.
You can donate in person at the Surrey Christmas Bureau depot at 10355 King George Boulevard or online at ChristmasBureau.ca.