Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau executive director Chris Bayliss was surrounded by toys Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020 at the 37th annual Kruise for Kids toy drive and fundraiser held at the Langley Events Centre for the Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)

Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau executive director Chris Bayliss was surrounded by toys Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020 at the 37th annual Kruise for Kids toy drive and fundraiser held at the Langley Events Centre for the Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau (Dan Ferguson/Langley Advance Times)

‘Sense of desperation’: Christmas bureaus anticipating spike in need this year

Bureau pushing for teen toys, but says all support is welcome

As with most events this year, Christmas and the holiday season will be just a little bit different.

There won’t be any opportunity to sit on Santa’s lap at malls, fewer holiday gatherings and according to Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau executive director Chris Bayliss, there have just been struggles all around.

Many of the bureau’s events have been turned “all the way upside down,” Bayliss told Black Press Media by phone. All events have gone virtual, been heavily scaled down to comply with COVID-19 safety plans or been cancelled altogether..

“Our first couple of big events, the toy numbers are far down, the financial support is way down,” he said. “They’re all impacted. It’s a challenge.”

The impact stretches beyond the regional bureau and all the way to local ones in cities like Surrey and Langley, with the Lower Mainland office supports. The Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau supports an average of 1,000 families annually and works with 40 other bureaus and agencies, providing material support and shipping more than 145,000 items to them. The bureau also distributes almost $70,000 in supermarket gift cards to families.

Bayliss said the recent Vancouver Motorcycle Toy Run drive-thru drop off resulted in just one-quarter the toy donations they usually get. Their Cruise for Kids car rally did well financially but gathered less than half the usual toys.

“We’ve also lost the Teddy Bear Toss completely, and most importantly our Pan Pacific Christmas Wish Breakfast 2020 is gone,” Bayliss noted. “That brings in 20 tonnes of toys in one day, it’s probably the biggest toy drive of its kind.”

But even though donations are down, recipient families are up as many struggle through an unusually difficult year, while regular recipients find themselves in even tougher straits than usual this Christmas.

“There’s a pent up demand, there’s sort of a sense that we need to have a normal Christmas, or at least something to celebrate,” Bayliss said. “There’s also the fear from our volunteers, seasonal staff, our client base… how can we do this in a COVID-safe manner.”

While Bayliss said the organization has invested in safety training, barriers, masks and extra sanitization, he said it makes it hard when they typically rely on numbers to package, ship out and distribute toys and other goods.

“I hope that people can get out and get the help they need because we know… there’s a sense of desperation this year. We’ve been getting the calls,” he said.

But while many events have been cancelled, Bayliss said he’s encourage by all of the people who have stepped up to help. The bureau is hosting a Christmas Toy Drop Drive-Thru at the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) on Thursday and Friday (Nov. 12-13). Anyone can make a monetary donation via tap or donate a new, unwrapped toy. To reserve a time, visit: ticketleader.ca/events/detail/christmas-toy-drop.

READ MORE: Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau, PNE to host drive-thru holiday toy collection

Bayliss said that while any monetary help and all toys are appreciated, teens often get left out during the holidays. Teens make up 12 per cent of the bureau’s recipients each year but toys for them make up only three per cent of what’s donated.

“We can make a lot of that up with gift cards but it’s not the same,” he said. “Everybody always wants to buy a stuffed animal… but teen toys are always important.”

If you’re not sure what to get, Bayliss said to “look at the STEM toys, the science, tech, engineering and mathematic toys.” Electronics, he noted, are always good, too, and items like blowdryers and curling irons.

Anyone wanting to donate can visit lmcb.ca for more information.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

ChristmasCoronavirusHoliday givingHolidays

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

Just Posted

Students sign to pledge their support of ending use of the 'R' word. (Contributed photo)
LETTER: Autistic woman says use of the R-word is a degrading reminder of how cruel the world can be

‘I am a person with autism and I know how it feels to be ridiculed, laughed and even feared’

Construction is expected to start in March of 2021 on 23 new rental homes funded by the provincial government’s Community Housing Fund. (Metro Creative photo)
Province announces rental home project in Chilliwack paid for by Community Housing Fund

Twenty three homes for Indigenous families are planned in partnership with Tzeachten First Nation

Shandhar Hut Indian Cuisine reopened Dec. 1, 2020 in Chilliwack after closing Nov. 19 as a precautionary move to keep everyone safe. (Shandhar Hut/Facebook)
Chilliwack restaurant reopens after closing temporarily as a precautionary step

‘We are so grateful to everyone for their kindness,’ says Shandhar Hut manager

Police say 30-year-old Andrew Baldwin was killed in Surrey on Nov. 11. (Photo: Police handout)
Fourth man charged in 2019 Surrey murder

Andrew Baldwin, 30, was killed on Remembrance Day last year

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation at the legislature, Nov. 30, 2020. (B.C. government)
Hockey team brought COVID-19 back from Alberta, B.C. doctor says

Dr. Bonnie Henry pleads for out-of-province travel to stop

B.C. Premier John Horgan on a conference call with religious leaders from his B.C. legislature office, Nov. 18, 2020, informing them in-person church services are off until further notice. (B.C. government)
B.C. tourism relief coming soon, Premier John Horgan says

Industry leaders to report on their urgent needs next week

An RCMP cruiser looks on as a military search and rescue helicopter winds down near Bridesville, B.C. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Photo courtesy of RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey
B.C. Mountie, suspect airlifted by Canadian Armed Forces from ravine after foot chase

Military aircraft were dispatched from Comox, B.C., say RCMP

Photo by Dale Klippenstein
Suspect tries to thwart police in Abbotsford with false 911 call about men with guns

Man twice sped away from officers and then tried to throw them off his trail

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

An 18-year old male southern resident killer whale, J34, is stranded near Sechelt in 2016. A postmortem examination suggests he died from trauma consistent with a vessel strike. (Photo supplied by Paul Cottrell, Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
“We can do better” — humans the leading cause of orca deaths: study

B.C. research reveals multitude of human and environmental threats affecting killer whales

A logo for Netflix on a remote control is seen in Portland, Ore.,Aug. 13, 2020. Experts in taxation and media say a plan announced Monday by the government will ultimately add to the cost of digital services and goods sold by foreign companies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jenny Kane
‘Netflix tax’ for digital media likely to raise prices for consumers, experts say

The government says Canadian companies already collect those taxes when they make digital sales

Most Read