The longtime chair of the Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Christmas Hamper Society has decided to step down.
After a quarter century at the helm, Lorraine Bates will be passing on the reigns of the society that helps hundreds of families with gifts and a Christmas dinner every year.
“It’s time,” said Bates, who this summer to retire from the position.
Bates announced in August she would be stepping aside from her position as fair manager at the Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Country Fest. It was during the fair in July that she made the decision to also retire from the hamper society, but kept it to herself until board members and volunteers were notified.
“You keep working towards your future, and you do all these things for your future, and all of a sudden you wake up one day and say there is no future, you’re in your future right now. You have to enjoy what you’ve been given,” said Bates, noting that the Christmas hamper takes up a lot of her time.
Her work force has also shrunk. Inmates from the Fraser Regional Correctional Facility who used to help with setting up and tearing down the hamper no longer take part.
Bates is going to miss the people she worked with to give the gift of Christmas every year – those, whom she noted, put aside their own Christmases to help families and children in need.
And Bates knows, the job is hard.
Before Bates became involved with the Christmas hamper she used to decorate and bake festive goodies for her family.
One year, at the beginning of her involvement, she returned home on Christmas Eve and the house wasn’t decorated at all. She called her daughter, who was living on her own at the time, and cried because she felt like she didn’t give her own family the Christmas they deserved.
But her daughter set her straight. She told her mom to remember all the children she gave a Christmas to. Then she asked if she wanted to decorate a house plant, or plug in a talking plastic spruce tree decoration. Bates opted for the talking tree.
“That’s what we did and we laughed and that was our Christmas,” said Bates, noting that her daughter was of the same mindset.
“That was my gift to the hundreds of kids that wouldn’t normally have had a Christmas,” she said.
That’s what she wants to remember.
Bates said she is going through all sorts of emotions right now, but knows the society is in good hands. She is hoping to spend more time with her family, who supported her decision.
“They think I should start living,” she said, adding that maybe this Christmas she will decorate her house.
A formal announcement about her replacement has yet to be made.
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