Two of Langley’s top volunteers will let others play Santa’s elves, stepping aside as co-chairs of the Langley Christmas Bureau.
Leigh Castron and Jim McGregor are stepping aside after more than a decade at the helm.
The bureau provides gifts, books from the Langley Literacy Association and donated pajamas to the children of families who could not otherwise afford them.
Castron, with the bureau for 16 years, said she and McGregor were fortunate.
“We are a very well oiled machine and I think it’s because of the volunteers we do have. They average at least 10 years with the Christmas bureau,” she explained. “They know exactly what they have to do when they walk in the door.”
The Christmas bureau is also in the enviable position of not having to hunt up volunteers. Most return year after year, and any vacancies are quickly filled by people wanting to be part of the magic.
The bureau has about 100 volunteers.
That allowed the co-chairs to focus on other tasks, like securing space each holiday season and all the sundry details.
But the two friends have decided it’s time for a change. Castron said they don’t want the Christmas bureau to be about them and know it’s on a solid foundation.
A key factor in that is the strong and continuing community support.
“The support that we have from our community is phenomal,” she commented.
There’s community fundraisers organized by people who want to help, such as the First Capital Chorus, the wives of Langleys’ two mayors, the Langley Ukulele Ensemble, Chairs for Charity, the Pajama Drive, and more in addition to the general public support.
She said the bureau has people and companies from other communities contacting them about donating. The bureau provides information on the charity efforts in their own communities but Castron said many people choose to give to the Langley bureau because it has always been volunteer-run.
The bureau has distributed the gifts for the year and closed up shop.
After several years of numbers increasing, this year’s demographics show a change.
“We had 775 families apply,” she said.
The bureau provided gifts for 1,706 children. Last year’s numbers were just over 800 families and 1,800 children.
“Everybody’s numbers are down,” she said.
The bureau is in contact with other charities and agencies which have also reported fewer requests for assistance.
But the Langley Christmas Bureau did receive applications from 180 new families.
And the bureau set aside some funds in case any refugee families arrived and needed some holiday help.
Castron said they expect there will be refugee families helped by the bureau next Christmas.
The Langley bureau, which has a centrally located office and a satellite office in Aldergrove, has an application process for families wanting help.
There is screening and Castron said that helps ensure the gifts go to those who truly need help.
“It’s not as if everybody who comes in the door, gets help,” she said. “We do check things out.”
The gifts are distributed at special Toy Depot Days about a week before Christmas. That’s when volunteers see firsthand the impact of the Langley Christmas Bureau.
“You know that they are in a rough place. You know that they need help,” she said.
And the bureau’s legacy in the community fosters goodwill.
“A lot of people give back because they may have been in that position,” Castron added.