Empty Stocking Fund: Donations down, need is up, says Richmond Cares' Ed Gavsie

Toys collected at the drive, which takes place Nov. 18 in the parking lot of Lansdowne Centre, will go to the nonprofit’s Christmas fund.

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Last year, Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie dunked the officer in charge of the RCMP Richmond detachment as part of the annual RCMP Toy Drive.

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This year, instead of a dunk tank, organizers of the annual event are putting people behind bars.

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“Some notable people in the community and others will be jailed until they get enough donations to release them, and kept there by the RCMP on scene,” said Ed Gavsie, president and CEO of Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives.

And it won’t be just people — some of the mascots in attendance, such as the Richmond Fire Department’s Blaze and the RCMP’s Safety Bear, will also be rounded up in an effort to collect more toys for Richmond families.

Last year’s drive collected 1.7 tons of toys. “The toys came in so fast that we can’t count them,” Gavsie said. Toys collected at the drive, which takes place Nov. 18 in the parking lot of Lansdowne Centre, will go to the nonprofit’s Christmas fund.

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Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives acts as both volunteer centre for the city and also the operator of several community programs for seniors and families. Founded 91 years ago by Ethel Tibbits, publisher of the Richmond Review, the Richmond Christmas Fund is its best-known program. Funds raised by The Province’s Empty Stocking Fund go to the Richmond Christmas Fund as well as other bureaus in the Lower Mainland.

Last year, the fund helped 2,835 people, a 22-per-cent increase over the previous year, including 1,178 children and teenagers. Eighty volunteers worked on the Christmas fund, contributing over 1,200 hours.

This year those donations are needed more than ever, Gavsie says.

“Due to the economy, we have seen a number of our corporate sponsors drop out because they just don’t have the dollars available. Several renewed, but a few did drop out. We have had a couple of new what we call ‘angel donors,’ people who have donated $10,000 or more. But fundraising is down overall.”

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Registration for the Richmond Christmas Fund begins Nov. 15, after The Province’s publication date, so Gavsie didn’t know what demand will look like this year.

“If we look at some of our fellow non-profits, for instance the Richmond Food Bank, it had a 53-per-cent increase in requests for help between September over January of this year alone. So we don’t know what our numbers will be, but we’re pretty sure there’s going to be increased demand. So there will be less funds through fundraising and more demand. It’s going to be a challenging year for us.”

Further complicating things is a move to Lansdowne Mall.

“Our old toy room was taken away from us, after 20-some-odd years in the same location. So we’re very thankful to the owners of Lansdowne and the operators who are providing us with space to operate the Christmas fund out of.”

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Because of the move, and so as not to disrupt Christmas shoppers, Richmond Christmas Fund is increasing the number of distribution days.

“People come in and register and then get their food cards and/or toys, if they have kids, the same day. There’s no preregistration. That’s why we don’t know what the demand is going to be. So we’ve increased the number of distribution days from four in the past to 15 this year to try and spread the crowd a bit more.”

For 105 years, The Province’s Empty Stocking Fund has been dedicated to making the holidays brighter for B.C. residents who are less fortunate. With the generosity of our readers and supporters, the fund gives money to 26 B.C. community organizations that provide food hampers and gifts to children, needy families and singles.

The 2023 campaign will run from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31. Donations can be made at:

Online: https://theprovince.com/esf

By mail to: The Province Empty Stocking Fund; 968 East Cordova St.; Vancouver, B.C., V6A 1M6

By calling: 604-253-6911

2023 direct donation link: https://secure.e2rm.com/registrant/DonationPage.aspx?eventid=385682

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