The elves were busy in their Surrey “toy shop,” putting together the finishing touches on their latest batch of toys.
For 17 years, Fraser Heights Secondary School’s wood shop has turned into its own toy shop to help out the Surrey Christmas Bureau, building rocking airplanes, dinosaurs and moose.
Shop teacher Martin Lim said the initiative started years ago when the school did a trip to Tijuana, Mexico to build a house for a family.
“(We) came back here and thought, what can we do for our local community as well, and folks in need,” Lim said.
When they started all those years ago, Lim said, it was just rocking airplanes – and only 10 of them
“Over the years, it’s expanded to 60 units now; planes, dinos and moose.”
Chris Mills, a tech ed teacher, said the whole process starts in early November as they gather up the materials and volunteers.
“We do a lot of prep work during the day with students to get all the pieces ready for the night crew that comes and does all the various jobs that are needed,” said Mills, adding that it takes about three to three-and-a-half weeks total.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s well worth it… We put a lot of hours in but it’s nice to see it once we get to the bureau and the parents’ eyes light up when they get to see these big shiny toys that they may be able to deliver to the Christmas tree come Christmas morning.”
On hand Thursday (Dec. 5) was Fraser Heights 2017 graduate Vy Pham, who took shop all throughout high school.
“They introduced me to the Christmas bureau my first year, so Grade 8. I got really close to the teachers, so I always came back and helped,” said Pham, adding that the shop teachers, Lim and Mills, are like family to her now.
“Every time it happens, they just shoot me a text and I just come right out.”
It was two years ago that Pham got the opportunity to drop off the toys to the Surrey Christmas Bureau.
“We drove out, we unloaded the truck with all the toys in it and it was very, very nice to see. I saw a lot of the things that people were donating. It feels good to know that someone who maybe wasn’t as fortunate as the rest of us gets to wake up and have something new in their life,” she said.
Asked why she keeps coming back to help, Pham said part of it is the people.
“They’re always smiling. You don’t come here and see someone angry painting, everyone’s just happy and they volunteer their time to come out. It’s very nice to see that.”
As for the Christmas bureau, Tony Miles said that year after year, the volunteers are helping to making families in Surrey “have a really great Christmas.”
Miles, who is on the bureau’s board of directors, said it’s impressive to see all the work that goes into the toys.
“When you see it put together, it looks pretty straightforward, but there’s a lot of moving parts here. Just to get it prepped with the paint and getting it cut… It’s really a labour of love for these people, I can tell.”
But for the families, Miles said the toys mean a great deal.
“I think that because these items are so colourful, parents are immediately drawn to it. I’ve said to a few people that I think that for a lot of families, these become heirlooms. They’re really well made and there’s something that families will remember for a long time.”