The Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau’s calls for items for older kids haven’t gone unheeded.
A surplus of stuffed animals has been an ongoing conundrum for the non-profit, which collects gifts throughout the year for needy families at Christmas. But well-meaning donors have tended to contribute toys meant for younger kids.
The Bureau’s executive director Chris Bayliss says that this Christmas is shaping up to be different.
“We had a robust toy year last year,” said Bayliss. “We’re shipping harder to the other bureaus. In fact, I believe that we are shipping the highest quality toys we’ve ever shipped. Because we’ve been messaging forever about teen toys, pre-teen toys, more stuff for the five-to-12-year-old crowd. We’re seeing results in the quality and appropriateness of the toys. And we’re seeing fewer stuffed animals.”
The Bureau directly supports an average of 1,000 families each year in Vancouver with grocery store gift certificates and gifts for children 18 and under. The Bureau also co-ordinates with up to 40 other bureaus and agencies across the region to distribute more than 100,000 items for their holiday programming. Money donated by Province readers to the Empty Stocking Fund go to the Bureau and the other bureaus and community service groups.
The bureau collects toys through various initiatives, including events like the Motorcycle Toy Run and Kruise for the Kids car rally.
“And then we’ve had some other toys coming in during the course of the year,” Bayliss said.
“We have ongoing relationship with production companies and movie companies and with the Greater Vancouver Food Bank. Any toys they get come this way. And we’re getting more donors year-round now.”
It helps having a larger location. Last year, the bureau moved from an 8,500-square-foot building on Pandora to a 10,000-square-foot warehouse on Cordova with a small parking lot and loading bays.
“We’ve seen an uptick in the first two quarters of this year in terms of volume coming through the door,” Bayliss said.
“But having a larger location means we can work on bigger stuff. With one of our charity partners, we took on 13 skids of high-end toiletries that are good for teens and preteens and young men. In our old building, we couldn’t handle it.”
With its extra capacity, the bureau is adding some smaller groups that it hasn’t partnered with previously.
“I’ve done some work with one of the Indigenous preschools, and I’m working with the school board on helping families with school supplies. We get some of that sometimes. And we’re going to add some more community groups.”
Upcoming toy drives include the Bell Media Toy Mountain at Guildford Town Centre Nov. 30 and Dec 1 and the Pan Pacific Christmas Wish Breakfast Dec. 13.
Demand for services was already high in early November. Bayliss says that, in the week since opening registration, appointments to visit the warehouse and collect toys were rapidly filling up.
“We anticipate more families this year. But of course that’s also part of the economy, right?
“And all the bureaus are kind of ringing the same bell. We’re getting more phone calls and the community partners are saying that they can see an increased need in their communities with inflation and all the other cost drivers right now. And rent. It’s really tough for a low-income family to make ends meet. Much like the Food Bank and the other Christmas bureaus, we’re planning for more people.”
For 105 Years, The Province’s Empty Stocking Fund has been dedicated to making the holidays brighter for B.C. residents who are less fortunate. With the generosity of our readers and supporters, the fund gives money to 26 B.C. community organizations that provide food hampers and gifts to children, needy families and singles.
The 2023 campaign will run from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31 and donations can be made:
Online at: https://theprovince.com/esf
By mail to: The Province Empty Stocking Fund
968 East Cordova Street,
Vancouver, B.C., V6A 1M6
By calling: 604-253-6911
2023 Direct donation link.