Toys were being sorted, shelves were being lined for shopping and families in need filled the lobby of the Surrey Christmas Bureau this Wednesday.
It was day one of toy distribution for what’s lovingly referred to as the “Surrey North Pole,” by executive director Lisa Werring.
“We run on coffee and sugar around here,” she joked, during a tour of this year’s toy depot, set up at the old Stardust roller rink building for the second year running.
Behind shelves upon shelves of toys ready to be chosen is the bureau’s storage area.
There are massive mountains of stuffed animals, boxes upon boxes of toys and dozens of bikes waiting to be chosen.
It may look like a lot, but they won’t last long, Werring explained.
“We will have approximately 85 families per day coming in to select toys for their children. While it looks right now like we have a lot of stock and a lot of big fellas like this,” she said, holding a giant teddy bear, “they’re going to disappear very, very quickly over the next couple of weeks. In our first week alone we’ve got 765 kids, and 260 teenagers to supply gifts to.”
“That’s just week one.”
For each child, a family can select one big toy, one medium-sized toy, one book, and a new article of clothing. And some families the bureau serves have up to eight children.
“That stock is going to be depleted very rapidly,” she said.
While Werring lovingly and accurately referred to the toy depot as a “pop-up Toys R Us,” she said stocking it is no small feat.
With Christmas less than a month away, and thousands of local children registered to receive gifts, the charity is asking for help amid an “increasing need” in the community.
So far this year, more than 1,200 families including 3,360 children have signed up for help and more are registering every day.
“With over 2,000 families to help during the season, we schedule approximately 85 families per day to come in and pick up toys, so we do have to start early,” said Werring. “We need a constant supply of toy donations now and throughout the season to keep our shelves full. Our fantastic team of volunteers work tirelessly restocking all season to ensure parents have the dignity of a full shopping experience.”
The bureau is asking any businesses and families that have been conducting toy drives to bring the items down to the Toy Depot at 10240 City Parkway as soon as possible.
“The saddest thing we can imagine is anyone looking at an almost empty shelf, thinking they have to pick the last toy available,” Werring added.
Teen gifts are always a big need, Werring said.
“During the holidays, sharing that special family meal on the table is just as important as the toys under the tree,” she noted. “The bureau is also in need of cash donations to fulfill our grocery hamper program for these families. To date, the financial requirement for the hamper program is $116,000, that figure will grow to approximately $150,000 before the season is over. Thousands of families count on us and community champions are desperately needed to help us put toys under trees, turkeys on tables and make sure Christmas is merry for everyone.”
What keeps Werring going during this of year, even amid the worry of filling those shelves?
“It’s putting smiles on faces. When I see families come in here and I see parents that are really stressed with the cost of living, trying to make ends meet living in the Lower Mainland, then worrying about the expense of Christmas, they just can’t afford to give their children anything. We’re able to take that pressure off of them….. And, more importantly for many families, grocery gift cards to help put that all important family meal on the table. That’s really making Christmas magic.”
Toys and cash donations can be dropped off to the depot at at 10240 City Pkwy., Monday to Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The 2019 Toy Wish list and a link for financial donations are also available on the Christmas Bureau website at christmasbureau.com.