Empty Stocking Fund: Chilliwack kids can rest assured that new PJs are on the way

Last year, Chilliwack Community Services provided 578 food hampers, reaching 1,235 children.

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Each year, Chilliwack Community Services tries to ensure that each family that registers with its Christmas Share Program has a holiday meal, toys — and pyjamas.

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“One of the things we make sure we do is that every family gets a game or something they can do together,” said Shirley Triemstra, fundraising coordinator for the program, “and that every child gets new pyjamas.”

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The toys, food and sleepwear are part of the group’s Christmas Share Program. It partners with the Salvation Army, which provides the food while Chilliwack Community Services takes care of the toys and gifts.

The toys are donated through local toy drives and other initiatives.

“We have so many toy drives,” Triemstra said. “One of them, the Rotary CATT (Chilliwack Athletes for Toys and Turkeys) volleyball tournament, collected over 200 toys and $2,000 worth of gift certificates and a $28,000 cheque.”

Whatever the toy drives don’t cover, the Empty Stocking Fund does. Now in its 104th year, the fund is powered by readers of The Province. Donations go to 26 Christmas bureaus and agencies in the Lower Mainland to help needy families.

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Chilliwack Community Services often uses its ESF funds for gifts for teens.

“Because that’s where we always have a bit of a problem,” Triemstra said. “We know teens, right? They don’t want toys. We give them gift cards. We’ll give them toiletries.”

And PJs.

The pyjamas come from Old Navy.

“They’ve been very good to us, and we’ve been able to get them at a good price. I’ll get them anywhere that they’re on sale. Carter’s is another place that sometimes will give me a really great deal. I just shop around,” she said.

Last year, Chilliwack Community Services provided 578 food hampers, reaching 1,235 children.

“We accept anybody who’s struggling. We’re prepared. We will do whatever it takes to make sure that everybody has a great Christmas,” Triemstra said.

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The Salvation Army, which provides food and grocery certificates, had reported a 30 per cent increase in clients as of late November over last year.

“We are definitely expecting more,” she said. “I don’t know if it will be as much as 30 per cent just because not all families need toys. We’re prepared for a 20 per cent uptake.”

Chilliwack Community Services schedules the toy pickup for one day.

“Families are scheduled in half-hour increments. It’s just fun to see everybody and we’ve got great people working here, one coordinator and the rest is all volunteers. That’s another big part of it. We couldn’t do it without our volunteers,” Triemstra said.

Helping out in the community at this time of year is so enjoyable that the volunteer positions fill up quickly.

“We even see families coming in and working together for a couple of hours,” she said.

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