‘Twas the week before Christmas and volunteer elves were stirring, they gathered and sorted, filled hampers with care.
In a secret location, dozens of volunteers worked hard this week dealing with thousands of dollars of toy donations to fill Christmas hampers for nearly 500 families in Chilliwack.
It’s a heart-warming tradition nearly 90 years old as Chilliwack Community Services (CCS) once again worked to brighten homes that might otherwise be sparse with toys and food over the season.
And while Shirley Triemstra, fundraising co-ordinator for CCS is on the front lines of this annual Chilliwack feel-good story, she’s not looking for praise. Quite the opposite.
“We’ve just been so blessed and we want to say thank you,” Triemstra said at the warehouse where 170 volunteers worked this week to fill hampers for 475 Chilliwack families.
From puzzles to games to balls to bikes to dolls, the bags were filled ready for pickup on Tuesday.
As part of the program – which is the reason CCS first formed in 1928 – families in need register and get toys for the kids, all the fixings for a Christmas meal, and a voucher for a ham or a turkey. They even throw in wrapping paper for the presents.
Families started to register on Nov. 15, letting them know the number of kids in the family, ages, genders and what they’d like to see under the tree. CCS then does the best they can to make it happen.
Gifts come in different ways: to the CCS office, via the angel tree program, gift drives around town, but much is also purchased with cash donations, and through deals given by local businesses.
“Without all the community we would not be able to do this,” Triemstra said.
And the volunteers are a critical element, too, with local sports teams showing up, including the Chilliwack Chiefs. There are volunteers who come in year after year to get to work and fill the hampers.
“It’s a real community event,” she said.
Local high school students also pitch in, some as part of their Work Experience 12 (WEX) program.
Jackie Turman, who is involved with WEX, said this week the volunteer work done by the students may be part of their 100 hours, but the charitable acts they are a part of is extremely meaningful for the teenagers.
Turman said she overheard some of the girls involved chatting about what it meant.
“It was important for the students,” she said. “How good it made them feel to put together a hamper for a needy family.”