Coming together to help make Christmas bright

It takes a community effort to bring Christmas to 500 families in need each year through the Christmas Sharing program in Chilliwack.

Lynn Kramer (left) and Karin Massar laugh as a toy continues to sing to them at the Christmas Sharing warehouse. The two are with Chilliwack Community Services which will be giving Christmas toy hampers to about 500 families in need.

Lynn Kramer (left) and Karin Massar laugh as a toy continues to sing to them at the Christmas Sharing warehouse. The two are with Chilliwack Community Services which will be giving Christmas toy hampers to about 500 families in need.

It takes a community effort of donations, fundraising, and volunteers to bring Christmas to more than 500 families in need each year.

Chilliwack Community Services (CCS) has been offering its Christmas Sharing program for 86 years. It all began in 1928 when one woman asked her neighbours to help a fellow neighbour who was struggling at Christmas. Since then, the people of Chilliwack have been selflessly bringing Christmas to families in need.

“It’s helping families in the community,” says Karin Massar, fund development officer at CCS. “A lot of people have circumstances, such as sudden job loss, or illness, so they are not able to provide their families with the Christmas they anticipate.”

CCS collects toys for all kids, from newborns up to age 17. They also collect donations of new clothes such as pyjamas, winter clothing, infant clothing, socks and hoodies, and cash donations.

For each child, a typical hamper will include a large gift (valued at $40-$50), one or two smaller gifts (valued at around $20), pyjamas, stuffie for kids under 10, and if available: a hat, mitts, candy, a stocking, a book, and wrapping paper.

CCS works with the Salvation Army, which provides the food portion of the hampers.

Each hamper also includes one board game per family.

“We do try and include a board game for every family because it’s together time,” says Massar.

As always, popular toys like Lego, board games, books, cars and trucks, and super heroes are always a big hit. Themed toys like Hello Kitty, Monster High, and Frozen are also in high demand.

But it’s gifts for the older kids that they’re typically low on every year. This year is no different.

For teenagers, they are in need of items like arts-and-craft kits, makeup, cosmetics and body washes (for both boys and girls), hair accessories (hair dryers, curling irons, mousse, brushes), ear buds, portable bluetooth speakers, and gift cards for places like Cottonwood Mall, electronics stores, sporting goods stores, Target, and Walmart.

Every year, thousands of toys are donated to the Christmas Sharing program.

Unfortunately, since the economic downturn of 2008, the need has gone up and the donations have gone down, says Massar.

In 2008, cash donations were at $66,672. The following Christmas, it dropped by nearly half to $35,073. CCS still has not recovered from the downturn as cash donations now average about $43,000 each year.

Though they do collect items year-round, November and December are definitely the busiest months. People can donate unwrapped gifts at one of the gift drop-off locations (listed below) or at one of the community toy drives.

The unofficial kickoff for the program begins each year with the annual Rotary CATT Fund Volleyball Tournament toy drive which took place this past weekend and brought in $27,000 and 370 toys.

“They give us our jumpstart big time,” says Lynn Kramer, Christmas Sharing program coordinator.

Other upcoming toy drives include the Chilliwack Chiefs Teddy Bear and Toque Toss (Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. at Prospera Centre), the Re/Max Nyda Realty Toy Drive (Dec. 13 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at IHOP, includes breakfast and a picture with Santa), and the Chances and Murray Group Toy Drive (Dec. 14 from 9 to 11 a.m. at Chances Community Gaming Centre; whoever makes a donation gets breakfast to-go).

If you wish to donate but are not sure which age group or gender to buy for, CCS can help.

Head to one of the several ‘Angel Trees’ in town. You choose a tag from the tree which will have a child’s gender and age written on it. Buy a gift to suit those requirements and then return the gift, with the tag, to the tree.

New this year is their partnership with Scotiabank. The bank is accepting cash donations until Dec. 15 for the program, and any donations up to $5,000 will be matched by Scotiabank.

“The cash donations give us the opportunity to buy the things that haven’t been donated but are necessities like pyjamas, hats, and mitts,” says Massar.

The Christmas Sharing program gives families contentment, says Kramer. “It gives them hope in the future but also in the community around them,” she says. “I also think it gives them a great sense of peace, thinking their child may not be getting anything or next to anything for Christmas.”

In addition to the donations of toys, clothes, and money, people also donate their time.

One hundred local high school students spend hundreds of hours volunteering at the Christmas Sharing warehouse. They make up more than half of all the volunteers every year.

“They are the staple. They are the ones we can count on and can do a lot of the work,” says Kramer.

“They enjoyed it so much that by the end of their first shift, they’re asking when they can come back for more,” adds Massar.

There is also a very stable group of couples who volunteer every year, plus employees from local businesses.

This year, CCS expects to be giving gifts to more than 1,000 kids.

To get toys into in the hampers this year, they need to be donated by Dec. 15.

Those eligible to receive Christmas hampers (on income assistance, disability pension, EI benefits, or struggling with low income) can apply at 46144 Yale Rd. Hours are Mondays to Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (closed noon to 1 p.m.). The application deadline is Dec. 6.

“It’s a delight how many people have the opportunity to do this,” says Kramer. “It’s the closest I get to being Mrs. Santa Claus.”

Here are the drop-off locations (*asterisk denotes Angel Tree locations):

• Chilliwack Community Services (45938 Wellington Ave., 9214 Mary St., 7112 Vedder Rd.)• Cottonwood Mall*• Chilliwack Mall*• Dairy Queen (both locations)*• Vancity Credit Union*• Anavets (46268 Yale Rd.)• Suda Salon Artwork (104-45619 Yale Rd.)• She’s Fit (45619 Yale Rd.)*• Envision Financial (three locations)• RBC Royal Bank branches*• Hofstede’s*• Hampton House• Coast Capital Savings*• Royal Hotel*• Scotiabank• Murray Honda*• Murray Mazda*• Serenity Chiropractic (8635 Young Rd.)*

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A black sedan, white SUV, red pickup truck and black hatchback were all involved in a four-vehicle collision at Hodgins Avenue and Yale Road on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
UPDATE w/PHOTOS: No one injured in four-vehicle collision in Chilliwack

Emergency responders on the scene at Yale and Hodgins before 9 a.m. on Friday

The Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of British Columbia’s (CFSEU-BC) Uniform Gang Enforcement Team (UGET) has arrested a man who was on the run for nearly a decade. (File photo)
9-year search for international drug trafficking suspect ends with arrest at YVR

Khamla Wong, charged in 2012, taken into custody Feb. 24 by BC-CFSEU

The Great Bear Snowshed on the Coquihalla Highway (Highway 5) in British Columbia. Truck driver Roy McCormack testified in BC Supreme Court in Chilliwack on Feb. 25, 2021 that his brakes started smoking in about this location, and soon after he lost all braking, which led to a multi-vehicle crash further down the road on Aug. 5, 2016. (GoogleMaps)
Truck driver charged with criminal negligence in Coquihalla crash is accused of ignoring smoking brakes

Just before crashing the smoking truck was seen entering Zopkios brake check and leaving shortly after

Shaelene Keeler Bell. (Facebook)
Candlelight vigil Saturday for missing Chilliwack mother

Virtual event to ‘spread some light’ for 23-year-old Shaelene Bell of Chilliwack

Becky Miller, and her daughters Aurora, 5, and Alice, 2, getting the truck ready to help the St. Paul’s Dump Runners fundraiser Feb. 27, 28, March 1 and 2. (Becky Miller)
St. Paul’s Dump Runners of Chilliwack ready to pick up odds and ends for a cause

For a donation to the Nicaragua Feed the Children Fund volunteers haul stuff to the dump

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

Several BC Ferries sailings are cancelled Friday morning due to adverse weather. (Black Press Media File)
Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay ferry sailing cancelled due to high winds, sea state

Adverse weather causes cancellations across several BC Ferries routes

The BC Prosecution Service announced last year that it was appointing lawyer Marilyn Sandford as a special prosecutor to review the case, following media inquiries about disclosure issues linked to a pathologist involved in the matter. (Black Press Media files)
Possible miscarriage of justice in B.C. woman’s conviction in toddler drowning: prosecutor

Tammy Bouvette was originally charged with second-degree murder but pleaded guilty in 2013 to the lesser charge

A kid in elementary school wearing a face mask amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Metro Creative)
Union asks why an elementary school mask rule wouldn’t work in B.C. if it does elsewhere

B.C. education minister announced expansion of mask-wearing rules in middle, high school but not elementary students

Head of internal medicine at Chilliwack General Hospital Dr. Shari Sajjadi talks about the positive feedback hospital staff have received over this last year in the latest YouTube video about COVID-19 created in partnership with the Chilliwack Division of Family Practice and the Chilliwack Economic Recovery Network. (YouTube)
VIDEO: Dr. Shari Sajjadi says a simple ‘thank you’ helps keep up spirits of healthcare workers

‘We are so thankful for the positive feedback we are getting from our patients’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at Village Green Retirement Campus in Federal Way on Jan. 26. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
Canada approves use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine

The country joins more than a dozen others in giving the shot the green light

A new survey has found that virtual visits are British Columbian’s preferred way to see the doctor amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Unsplash)
Majority of British Columbians now prefer routine virtual doctor’s visits: study

More than 82% feel virtual health options reduce wait times, 64% think they lead to better health

Carolyn Howe, a kindergarten teacher and vice president of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association, says educators are feeling the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic and the influx of pressure that comes with it. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Stress leave, tears and insomnia: B.C. teachers feel the strain of COVID-19

Teachers still adjusting to mask and cleaning rules, pressures from outside and within

Most Read