With the turn of a new year the holiday season is likely out of mind for many, but volunteers at the Langley Christmas Bureau are giving Langley residents a reason to celebrate.
During the 2019 season the volunteer-based charity helped give about 625 local families a Christmas, said Velma McAllister, co-coordinator of the bureau.
“Between all our volunteers, and our sponsors, and supporters, we had another wonderful year – which we really don’t want to say… because that would mean everybody is working or able to look after themselves,” McAllister explained.
Despite the hundreds of families supported this year, the numbers were down compared to the previous year.
McAllister estimates the bureau had about 100 fewer families register in 2019, but Langley wasn’t alone.
“Checking around with all the Christmas bureaus and the different facilities, Gateway of Hope, they were down approximately 100, too,” she said.
“I think it’s probably our clients are maybe moving out of the area… hopefully they’ve been able to find jobs and get themselves [settled].”
This was the first year the local charity joined other bureaus in implementing a means test, where families registering provide supporting document to show they require aid.
“We as a group, that run the Christmas bureau, we don’t think [the test had an impact],” McAllister said. “We kept track of the number of families that did not qualify and there wasn’t all that many. There were about 25 families.”
Families that did qualify for assistance were invited to the bureau’s annual toy depot days in mid-December.
“Toy depot days are very hard on volunteers because we do a lot of crying with the families… they are just so happy with everything that we give them and everything that is done for them during the Christmas season,” she said.
During depot days the bureau sees about 100 volunteers donate time.
“They love doing it, they love helping people,” McAllister said.
The bureau will begin setting up for the 2020 season in October, which is a little later in the season than McAllister would prefer.
The Langley Christmas Bureau doesn’t have a permanent location, making set up and take down each season difficult for volunteers, according to McAllister
“That would be our Christmas wish,” she said about finding a permanent location.
“That way we wouldn’t have to pack everything up and put it into storage every year. Thank goodness we do have the volunteers we have.”
During the 2019 season the bureau was set up in a vacant commercial space on the Langley Bypass, but she said it is too early to confirm whether the charity could be in the same location next Christmas.
“It’s just such a wonderful place to volunteer at during the Christmas time, it makes you so grateful for everything you have… and we have really made Langley stand out here,” McAllister concluded.