Throughout the year, Westcoast Family Centres works directly with families, helping them in a variety of ways. Sometimes it’s through programs such as parent education, sometimes through child care referrals.
Recently, the organization came across “a family who needed to leave the area quite urgently to be with family up north,” said Kala Servansingh, director of advancement. “We were able to acquire some emergency funding for them to pay for their gas.”
And at this time of year, WCFC helps families have a better holiday season through gift cards.
“During the holidays, it’s the same thing. The families that we work with have immense need and so we try to remove as many barriers as possible. If someone’s asking for a gift card to help with their holiday celebrations, then it’s a no-questions-asked situation. We’re here to support.”
The WCFC is one of 26 B.C. community organizations that receives funds from the Empty Stocking Fund. Thanks to the generosity of Province readers and supporters, the ESF gives money to provide food hampers and gifts to children, needy families, and singles.
The organization serves families in Vancouver, the North Shore, the Tri-Cities, Pitt Meadows, and Maple Ridge.
“Some folks are new to Canada,” Servansingh said. “Some are in a domestic violence situation or survived a situation like that. Some need a little bit of support just to ensure their family can stay together. They’re low to moderate risk of being separated. What our team will do is provide counselling and education, play therapy, to do everything that we can to strengthen that family together to avoid
out-of-home placements like foster care.”
The ESF donations go toward gift cards, Servansingh says.
“That allows them to have autonomy to buy the groceries that they need for their holiday meals, gifts for their kids, that kind of thing. These make a huge difference.”
Some of the feedback the WCFC has received, provided anonymously to The Province, include a mother who wrote, “My son and I would like to thank you and express our sincere gratitude for your generous support and gift card. Your donation made it possible for my seven-year-old son to safely ride a new bike which boosted his confidence since his had no brakes on his old one.
“Because of this gift card, my son and I spent some one-on-one valuable time together, his safety was prioritized. Your generosity is what helps children in care strengthen their families so they can stay together, thrive, and look forward to future engagements. Thank you for helping our family when we had no other means to provide.”
WCFC also has a holiday hamper program, where it matches donors with families.
“Donors will sponsor individual families and purchase items off of the family’s wish list. Again, it’s just empowering families to get what they need.”
The donors include local businesses and “families who are keen to support,” Servansingh said.
“A lot of times they’ll have families with young children and they want to teach philanthropy and giving back to the community to their kids. They want to make sure that the family that they are donating to have children around the same age because that really helps build empathy for their children.”
This year WCFD has 123 families who require a hamper.
“All but two are already sponsored,” Servansingh told us the first week of December. “And those gifts are already coming in. Then, of course, throughout the year we’re always collaborating with other organizations and other services.
“We know that we can’t do everything and so we’re really collaborative within the sector, just to make sure that folks have access to other services as well.”
The Province’s Empty Stocking Fund campaign runs until Dec. 31.
Donations can be made by:
Online at: https://theprovince.com/esf
Mail to: The Province Empty Stocking Fund
968 East Cordova St., Vancouver, B.C., V6A 1M6
By calling: 604-253-6911
2023 direct donation link: https://secure.e2rm.com/registrant/DonationPage.aspx?eventid=385682
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