Iryna Savanchuk is truly thankful to the Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Christmas Hamper Society for help after her family fled Ukraine, for a peaceful life in a new country.
The family including Savanchuk, her husband, and eight children ranging in age from one to 13 years, arrived in Maple Ridge at the beginning of November and the parents found themselves in a position where they were unable to give their children a nice Chistmas.
After applying for help with the Christmas hamper society, they received four bicycles with helmets from the society along with ice skates, roller skates, kick scooters, and other toys, bath supplies, pyjama sets, hats, quilted bedding, a Walmart gift card, and a grocery store gift card for their Christmas dinner.
They received so many gifts that will help them to bring joy to their children, said Savanchuk.
“We are thankful for every gift and for the help with picking the gifts. This place is wonderful and with wonderful people working there. This Christmas will be the best Christmas ever,” said Savanchuk.
The Christmas hamper society received an influx of families this year who registered for help.
It was the busiest year since 2018 when 380 families registered, but only 627 children, said Tina Kirkpatrick, chair of the society.
However, in 2018 there were about 1.65 children per family and this year they are serving about 2.09 children per family.
In total, 346 families applied for help – including 720 children and 24 Ukrainian families – from the organization that supplies a full turkey dinner plus presents for the whole family for Christmas. And three of those families have come in past the deadline with five more children.
And there were three families, including Savanchuk’s, who were families of 10 people.
Each family was able to shop for brand new toys in the “toy barn” at Albion Fair Grounds, and each child up to 18 years received a gift hamper worth $125.
Every family also received a gift card to buy Christmas dinner, worth between $75 and $115.
There were 234 children, 32.6 per cent of the children who were registered with their families, who picked out presents for their parents at the Kids Only Gift Shoppe this year. Up 10 per cent from previous years, said Kirkpatrick.
The society also supported more than 171 teenagers.
In 2020, only 280 families registered with the society including 629 children.
Last year even less families registered, 237 total including 501 children.
The need, said Kirkpatrick, has increased 44.7 per cent since last year.
“It was just so busy with the increased number of clients,” said Kirkpatrick of this years event, adding that she had 25 applications even before registration began.
“The sheer size of what we have takes people by surprise,” noted Kirkpatrick.
Volunteer, including a group of local real estate agents spent Sunday, Dec. 18, and Monday, Dec. 19, packing up the barns. What is left from Rudolph’s Recycle Gift Shoppe is going to the Ridge Meadows Hospice Thrift Store and any winter clothing and blankets have already gone to the Salvation Army Ridge Meadows Ministries.
Now Kirkpatrick is awaiting the money raised from the Coins for Kids fundraiser, that is held by SD42 schools every year. So far more than $5,000 has come in for the Christmas hamper society from eight local school.
The rest of the schools will be submitting their fundraising efforts in January.
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