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Santa’s Langley elves set up Christmas bureau for another season

The office opens for client registration and donation drop-off on Monday.

Clients of the Langley Christmas Bureau will have to bring some extra paperwork with them when they register to receive toys and gifts for their children.

The local Christmas charity is the last bureau in the Lower Mainland to institute a means test and is using provincial poverty stats.

“They need to bring two months of bank statements, social assistance cheques – something to show that you fall under a certain category and the categories are based on provincial poverty levels and we increased it by 10 per cent over what the other Christmas bureaus are doing,” said Donalda Whaites one of the two co-ordinators of the Langley Christmas Bureau.

Client numbers will probably be about the same as last year (about 1,760 children), however this year the organization will have the means test to ensure that people who are receiving the help need it, she said.

“We are the only Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau that didn’t have a means test, and it was time to make sure people weren’t taking advantage of it,” Whaites said.

A means test is expected to lower client numbers by a bit.

“That’s the only thing we ask of our clients. It’s not very much,” said Velma MacAllister, the other Langley Christmas Bureau co-ordinator.

The holiday charity set up for the season on Monday, Oct. 28 and will be open to start registering clients on Monday, Nov. 4 at 10 a.m. People can also find out about receiving support from the bureau or donating to it by going to its website.

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Monday mayhem

The Langley Christmas Bureau springs to life in a matter of hours as a squad of volunteers (more than 100 in all), helped again this year by students from Vanguard Secondary, create Santa’s home away from home. This year set up was Monday, Oct. 28 and is at the same location as last year, unit 120 19860 Langley Bypass (in the Langley City Square shopping plaza).

The bureau’s volunteers leaped into action when the Premier Moving truck arrives with supplies and boxes of toys collected last Christmas. Within minutes, there’s tables set up and ready to be laden with boxes of toys and supplies needed to run the entirely volunteer Christmas bureau.

“We still are 100 per cent volunteer,” Whaites said.

The bureau provides Christmas gifts for families that could not otherwise afford to provide them for their children. Parents of children from birth to age 18 can apply to receive gifts. As well the Langley Literacy Network provides books to each child receives a new book.

“The community really supports us and that’s why we have to keep our community happy with what we do here,” Velma said.

The Vancouver Giants are doing a toy drive at the Dec. 6 game for the Christmas Bureau, MacAllister added.

There will be more events in support of the bureau as the holidays approach. People can donate new, unwrapped toys and gifts appropriate for teens at the bureau. Monetary donations are accepted at the bureau or through the Langley Christmas Bureau website.

The bureau receives logistical support from Langley City which handles its accounting, and broad-based support from throughout the community. First Capital Chorus and the Langley Ukulele Ensemble have Christmas concerts to support the bureau. Since 1996 Wayne Kuyer of Kuyer and Associates and various staff have dressed as Marley and Cratchitt to tour the local business community raising donations for the bureau and other causes.

And of course, there’s the general public, donating at the breakfast or at the booth at Willowbrook Shopping Centre.

“The toys that we get from our community are amazing,” Whaites commented.

Again this year Newlands Golf Course is organizing the third annual Christmas Wish Breakfast which will be on Nov. 26 starting at 6 a.m.

“If they bring a new unwrapped toy, they will receive breakfast,” Whaites said.

The event has grown each year.

“Every year it absolutely blows our mind,” MacAllister said. “It is so much bigger and better, and more people in the community are coming out. And people from outside the community. Last year there was a group from a seniors’ centre in Surrey.”

This is the only toy drive breakfast south of the Fraser River.

“Our first year, out goal was 500 people. This year we expect over 2,000,” Whaites noted.

The breakfast has a huge impact on this community and others. The Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau distributes toys to the bureaus in the region’s communities, including giving items to Langley.

“It means we take far fewer toys from the Lower Christmas Bureau which frees up toys for them to give to other communities,” Whaites explained. “The toys that we do take from the Lower Mainland, if we have too many, we give them to Surrey [which usually runs short of toys].”

Pauline Harris is one of the Langley Christmas Bureau volunteers who return each year to help with the holiday charity. On Oct. 28, she helped set up the office which is at Langley City Square again this season. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)
The location in Langley City Square starts out as an empty retail space but is swiftly transformed into holiday central thanks to the efforts of people such as Sylvia Sciczina. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)
Anthony Wideman and seven other students from Vanguard helped set up the Langley Christmas Bureau which opens for the season on Nov. 4. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)
Before the Langley Christmas Bureau can make Christmas merry for local disadvantaged children, it has to be set up. Items are taken from storage and set up by people such as Vanguard student Austin Wideman. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)
The Langley Christmas Bureau is set up in the same location as last year, in Langley City Square. Students such as KC Mcmahon and Kaira Nickel helped set it up. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)
Langley Christmas Bureau volunteers such as Clint Davies and Vanguard students such as Brody Schale set up the supplies needed for the bureau to make Christmas jolly for local children. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)
KC Mcmahon and Trinity Nyari are some of the Vanguard Secondary students who helped set up the Langley Christmas Bureau this holiday season. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)
Vanguard Secondary students such as Jeremie Mailhot were at the Langley Christmas Bureau location Monday to help with the setup. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)
Brody Schale helped unload supplies for the Langley Christmas Bureau on Oct. 28. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)
Kiara Nickel, Austin Wideman, Anthony Wideman, Sylvia Sciczina, Trinity Nyara, KC Mcmahon, Jeremie Mailhot, and Brody Schale helped make Christmas for disadvantaged families in this community. The Vanguard Secondary students did the heavy lifting to help set up the Langley Christmas Bureau. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)

Heather Colpitts

About the Author: Heather Colpitts

Since starting in the news industry in 1992, my passion for sharing stories has taken me around Western Canada.
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