An influx of Syrian refugees to Langley, and the fact that school gets out earlier than normal for Christmas break, will make it even harder than normal for Langley Christmas Bureau elves to make the season bright for all the families in need this December.
When school gets out early, the deadline to distribute all the toys, gifts, and food to families in need in Langley gets pushed forward, too, explained Velma MacAllister, the bureau’s new office manager.
With school letting out Dec. 16, that means organizers of the Langley Christmas Bureau only have 18 more days – weekends included – to make Christmas possible for an estimated 800 families in need this holiday season, she said.
“And we need help,” MacAllister said.
Sadly, in early- to mid-December, many people still haven’t had much chance to wrap their heads around everything Christmas, let alone finalized their plans to sponsor a family or donate toys, gifts, or cash to the Christmas bureau.
That means MacAllister, toy depot coordinator Donalda Whaites, and all the other seasonal volunteers need to ramp up their efforts.
There’s a concentrated effort to get the word out, to collect toys and gifts sooner, to get sponsors signed up faster, and to collect all the donations as soon as possible.
Another hurdle this year is the types of families expecting to turn to the bureau for help.
Like the Korean and Karen families in need, there are now an unknown number of new Syrian refugee families expected to turn to the bureau for help this year. And they cannot be sponsored, in large part because of dietary requirements and language barriers, MacAllister explained.
Working through the Immigrant Service Society, they’ve already been registering some of the families, but McAllister said she has no idea what kind of numbers they should expect.
“I wouldn’t even hazard a guess. I could say 25, but it could be closer to 100. I have no idea,” she added.
What she does now, MacAllister said, is that it means the bureau must take care of them, meaning they’ll need more financial support this year – in a shorter period of time.
Whaites weighed in, too. She noted that the Syrian families tend to have more children per family than the average Canadian household. That translates to the need for more toys and gifts for older children, as well.
Speaking of gifts, she said they’re usually set for gifts for younger children. The need, consistently, is for new toys and gifts for children ages nine to 15.
Whaites knows the workload for the bureau volunteers is greater this year, and the demand is likely to be much larger than ever before. But she remains optimistic it can be accomplished.
“The community here is always so incredibly generous,” she said. “Together, we can make Christmas possible for every family in Langley with children.”
How to help
The Langley Christmas Bureau is set up in the former legion building at 20702 Eastleigh Cres.
Registration has been ongoing since Nov. 1, and donations can be dropped off at the office or at the bureau toy drop in Willowbrook Shopping Centre between Dec. 2 and 12.
Donations and sponsor registration can also be made online: www.langleychristmasbureau.com.