Chilliwack preschoolers help struggling families

Hampers filled in Chilliwack go toward Union Gospel Mission's program

The food contents of a typical holiday food hamper for the Union Gospel Mission. Toys and presents were added depending on the wish lists of the recipients.

This Christmas season, 80 Chilliwack preschool and kindergarten students learned an important lesson in giving.

In November, the youngsters at Wind & Tide Preschool, and their parents, were given a list of essential needs and special gifts for low income families. The list for each family included gender, age, interests and hobbies of each family member. Since then, they’ve been gathering toys, gift cards and food items, watching the hampers fill up. Now, the hampers have been delivered and the kids have learned how wonderful it can feel to make a difference in others’ lives, says Wind & Tide’s education director, Suzie Warneke.

“It is quite amazing to witness the students experiencing the joy of giving to those in need,” Warneke said. “At age three and four, these children understand this. They see the importance of teamwork and how together they can make a difference.”

There are 30 Wind and Tide preschools, kindergartens and child development centres from Vancouver to the Fraser Valley, and as a group they partnered with the Union Gospel Mission to build hampers for 56 families in total.

“Each hamper is packed with all of the food items needed to prepare a tasty Christmas dinner including gift cards to purchase a turkey, groceries and dairy as well as a personalized gift for each family member,” said Barb Atkins, manager of the gospel mission’s Gifts of Hope initiative. “These hampers, valued at $350, provide families with much needed relief during the holidays.”

The Union Gospel Mission delivers the hampers to low income families in Vancouver’s most disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

The Gifts of Hope initiative began in 2007 when Wind & Tide Schools partnered with UGM after families expressed an interest in meeting local needs and teaching their children to give where they live. What started out as Christmas stockings for school-aged children transitioned into an annual toy drive. After a number of years of great success, including 2011 when over 1,600 toys, gifts and gift cards were collected, the preschools decided to supply entire hampers to low-income families through UGM.

Warneke says that hampers are not only important to those who receive them, but also to those who give.

“Each year the families and children make this a priority. I see how this initiative impacts families and how grateful they are to teach their children how to give. The hope is that they go on to give in the future.” she says.

In total, the Union Gospel Mission handed out 200 hampers.