Nostalgia washed over a teen as he volunteered with his classmates recently at the Langley Christmas Bureau’s headquarters.
As he helped unpack boxes, it stirred memories of when he and his family benefited from the seasonal charitable organization.
“He said, ‘This is nostalgia,’” related Donalda Whaites, who is co-coordinator of the bureau along with Velma MacAllister.
“He said, ‘This is where my toys came from when I was little.’”
Now he’s giving back.
That’s what the Christmas Bureau is about — giving back.
It’s an organization that brings Christmas comes to life for families that otherwise couldn’t afford to buy their children gifts. It is also the only Christmas bureau from Vancouver to Hope operating on a strictly volunteer basis.
Each year, the bureau and its roughly 125 volunteers help between 750 and 800 families have a Christmas that includes gifts under the tree.
“There’s always a need,” Whaites said. “There’s always families that cannot provide for their families at Christmas, and Christmas is for children.
“It (the need) doesn’t grow exponentially each year, which is good. We’re sort of on target from where we were last year.”
MacAllister said there are situations where both parents are working, but are having trouble keeping up with the cost of living.
“They’re just making ends meet to put food on the table, to pay the rent, put gas in the car, where this is that little extra where they don’t have to worry about Christmas,” she said.
MacAllister said 304 families have registered with the bureau as of Nov. 16. To qualify, you have to be a resident of Langley and have children. Two proofs of address are required as well as Care Cards for every member of the family, and children must be 18 years old and under and be attending school.
The bureau runs on an honour system, trusting that the people using the bureau are in need financially.
“We do not do a means test,” MacAllister said.
“We stress that the Christmas Bureau is for people who need help in providing for their children at Christmas,” Whaites said.
Donations of new, unused toys and gift cards (no stuffed toys, please) can be dropped off at the Christmas Bureau office, which is the former Langley Legion building at 20702 Eastleigh Cres., Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. up to Dec. 18, and two Saturdays in December, Dec. 9 and 16 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. both days.
They can also be delivered to the Gifts for Kids booth set up at the Willowbrook Shopping Centre, starting Dec. 1.
“(People) can donate there, too,” Whaites said. “Cash or toys.”
The bureau is able to provide Christmas presents to approximately 1,760 children each year.
Whaites said there is a particular need for gifts suitable for nine- to 15-year-olds.
Even with the bureau’s building surrounded by construction, donations have been steadily coming through the doors.
“We haven’t done too badly so far,” MacAllister said.
“It’s early,” Whaites added.
Children’s Wish Breakfast Comes to Langley
A key day for the bureau is Nov. 28, when Newlands Golf and Country Club (21025 48 Ave.) hosts the first annual Children’s Wish Breakfast in support of the bureau.
Anyone who comes to Newlands between 6:30 and 9:30 a.m. with a new, unwrapped toy will be treated to a complimentary breakfast prepared by the Newlands culinary staff.
Local singers and musicians will serenade the crowd on two stages, singing festive tunes while Santa and Mrs. Claus spread holiday spirit to all the attendees enjoying their hot breakfast.
Whaites, who doubles as the bureau’s Toy Depot co-ordinator, thanked Newlands “for hosting this amazing event and the City of Langley for their continued support.”
“Together, the Langley Christmas Bureau will be able to assist more Langley families and children this year,” Whaites said.
Families who have registered with the bureau are eligible to pick up toys at its Toy Depot. The Toy Depot will be held Dec. 18, 19, and 20 at its headquarters on Eastleigh Crescent.
On Toy Depot days, parents may choose one large gift, one small gift and a few stocking stuffers for each of their children.
Anyone wishing to sponsor a family through the bureau can do so in person at the headquarters or online.
MacAllister said the experience last year and so far this year has been “absolutely fantastic, overwhelming, joyous … you name it. I was just in awe at what went on here. The appreciation of the families and what we do here for them.”
She applauded the effort of Whaites and all she does for the bureau and those it supports. “It’s so wonderful to see this lady in operation on ‘elf days.’”
For more on the bureau and to sponsor a family or apply for a client hamper online, visit www.langleychristmasbureau.com.