Organizers of the Cloverdale Christmas Hamper program say the increase in need has skyrocketed this year.
“We have been overwhelmed by the need out there,” said Matthew Campbell, director of the Cloverdale Community Kitchen. “People are definitely feeling the pinch.”
The Community Kitchen runs the hamper program and Campbell said the increase in need is so steep they don’t know if they can fill the demand.
They’ve had a massive upturn in registrants for the hamper program, but also the size of families is increasing too.
He said they usually help about 500 to 600 households per Christmas.
“A lot of those households were seniors or single adults, along with families,” explained Campbell. “So, on average, we provided toys for about 200 to 250 kids.”
He said last year during COVID that number dropped a bit as they provided gifts to less than 200 kids.
“We don’t know what happened to those kids last year, but it dipped down to 196 kids and teens,” he noted. “This year, we now have close to 900 kids and teens registered. It works out to be about 600 kids, 12 and under, and 300 teenagers.”
They are serving a lot of new Canadian families this year and he said, for a lot of them, it’s their first Christmas in Canada.
“Some have no means of income yet, especially the refugees who just got out of refugee camps,” explained Campbell. “They need to get their kids something because their kids go to the same schools as everyone else and if you come to school and all your friends got gifts and toys and you show up and you’ve got nothing, you really feel left out and so we want to make sure that a lot of these new Canadians that have arrived are feeling welcomed to Canada.”
In terms of numbers, Campbell noted the families they served just a couple years ago, averaged 1.9 children (under 18) per household. This year, after surveying all registrants, the Community Kitchen found that averaged had climbed to 4.4 kids (under 18) per household.
“That’s where we’re seeing some of that huge increase,” he said. “Yes, we have more families, but every family has way more kids than we saw five years ago.”
Campbell said there are two days of upcoming toy drives to support the hamper program at Save-On-Foods in Hillcrest Village Shopping Centre on Dec. 8 and 10. He said people can visit Hillcrest on one of those two days to drop off their toys, or visit the Cloverdale Community Kitchen and drop them off there.
“We’re suggesting toys for kids, 12 and under, and gift cards for teenagers,” explained Campbell. “We want to give gift cards to the teenagers, because then they can go out and purchase their own things. We suggest gift cards somewhere between $50 and $100, depending on what someone can give.”
Campbell recommends gift cards for a mall, an electronics stores, or other stores where teens would be able to find something teen appropriate.
Campbell said they also have sports teams, notably Cloverdale Minor Hockey Association Teams and several Cloverdale Fury softball teams, doing team drives.
“They’ve done a really good job of getting a bunch of their teams together and doing small toy drives and then dropping off as a team here.”
He’s hoping to have all toys in by Dec. 13 so they can invite all parents registered for the hamper program to visit Shannon Hall Dec. 14 to pick out their toys.
Campbell said as the need increases, so too does the area they serve.
“We just we really want to thank the community of Cloverdale and the greater Surrey area,” he said. “We’re called the Cloverdale Community Kitchen, but we’re reaching and helping people all the way to Langley, White Rock, and other parts of Surrey.
“The community is just pouring out their support on us in terms of volunteering, getting involved, and helping and that is making a huge difference. So we’re very thankful for people who call us up and want to get involved because they’re making a difference.”
Save-On-Foods is located at 18710 Fraser Hwy in Hillcrest Village Shopping Centre. The toy drive takes place at Hillcrest Dec. 8 from 4 to 8 p.m. and Dec. 10 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.