After being on the receiving end of the Mission Community Services Society’s food centre for a couple of years, Steve Murray decided to give back.
Since July, he’s been volunteering with the non-profit group as part of its Engaged Community Guide program. As a guide, Murray delivers food to people and checks in on them.
“We talk to people, connect with them, give them advice on what they need help with,” Murray said. “There are lots of resources at the Food Centre.”
For Christmas, Murray is helping fill holiday hampers and organizing the toy depot at Mission Junction Mall with the Mission Community Services Society’s Christmas Bureau.
“There’s a lot of stuff for us to do,” said the commmunity liaison/program coordinator, Tyler Correia. “I’m glad we have these extra helping hands on deck.”
Tasks include putting together food hampers and organizing gifts at the toy depot.
“The hampers are slightly larger than usual,” Correia said. “We try to offer families a selection of Christmas meals.”
Gift cards for turkeys at local grocery stores are also included.
People will begin coming by for toys in December. It’s a good mix this year, he says.
“We’ve got lots of Hot Wheels. I feel like Hot Wheels are really versatile. I haven’t noticed any gaps. We’ve got a lot of toys for toddlers. Lots of stuffed animals. People love giving away animals.”
The Christmas Bureau collaborates with a number of partners, including the City of Mission.
“We’re going to be involved in the Candlelight Parade on Dec. 3, and our guides will be there in their blue jackets, gathering donations for the Food Centre.”
For toy and food donations, the non-profit relies on partners and events that take place in the area. In November, they partnered with the Mission Punj-Aab Cultural Club to set up a food donation area in Clarke Theatre for Diwali: The Festival of Lights.
And funds collected from Province readers through the Empty Stocking Fund go to help non-profits like the Mission Community Centre deliver food, gift cards and toys to people in need.
“It helps magnificently,” Correia said. “What we’ve noticed year over year is that there’s a big increase in the number of people who are using the Christmas Bureau.”
Last year, the Community Services Society provided food hampers to 550 families and seniors, and toys for 675 kids, an increase of 22 per cent more hampers and 13 per cent more gifts over 2021.
In addition, the non-profit organized tree donations and a Secret Santa event for seniors.
And this year will likely also see an increase in numbers.
“Before jumping into this Christmas season we saw an unprecedented increase in the number of people accessing our Food Centre,” Correia said. “We’re bracing for a Christmas time where people are going to be seeking out a service like this to make their Christmas something special. The Empty Stocking Fund is going to be extremely helpful in financing more hamper purchases and more toys as needed.”
Murray is grateful for the help he’s received in the past and is happy to be helping out this year.
“I just want to say a big thank you to everybody,” said Murray, who lives alone but has family nearby. “Working here has really helped my self-esteem and I’ve seen a change in other people who are volunteering here at the Christmas bureau.”
“Steve had been a joy to work with,” Correia said. “After seeing how giving and caring people in Mission can be, it wasn’t very surprising to me that someone like Steve came along and wants to do all of this really great work.”
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 groups that provide food hampers and gifts to children, needy families and singles.
The 2023 campaign will run from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31 and donations can be made:
Online at: 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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