It’s not always easy, paying the bills, especially with the added costs of Christmas.
And if anyone is struggling finds it too much, the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Christmas Hamper Society is there to help.
Every year, the society puts together bundles of gifts, clothes, toys and food vouchers to help folks who find themselves stretched too thin.
But it takes an army of volunteers to ensure everyone gets a Christmas. Recently, volunteers stepped up and helped out by driving freight trucks from Vancouver, filled with toys into the society’s headquarters at the Albion fairgrounds.
As well, the Realtors Care Blanket Drive recently yielded 176 bags filled with warm blankets and coats.
Lorraine Bates has been chair of the society and helping the hamper society for 22 years. So far this year, only one registration day has taken place and 70 families have signed up. The last registration day is Dec. 6.
The society is welcoming donations of new toys, such as Lego or movie-themed items connected to The Lion King, Spider Man, Toy Story 4 or crafts for teens. Scooters, skateboards, electronics and gift cards are also welcome.
Bates said $25 gift cards, in particular, are needed for the more than 100 teenagers registered who are hard to buy gifts for.
“The gift cards are probably the biggest need,” she said.
She added that last year, 400 families registered for a hamper and expects a similar number this year.
Back in 2011, a total of 640 families received hampers.
The hamper society tries to make Christmas as easy and family-friendly as possible. Parents can pick out their own toys for their kids at the Toy Barn and while there also get free board games and books, all brand new.
There’s also the Rudolph’s Recycle Gift Shoppe, where people can pick up any new or gently used item that suits their fancy. The second-hand gift shop has been successfully operated by the Maple Ridge–Pitt Meadows Christmas Hamper Society for 15 years and is a section that families really look forward to.
At the Kid’s Only Gift Shoppe, kids can stop in and pick out presents for their parents or caregivers.
While Bates has been helping with the hampers for years, she never loses her appreciation for the dozens of volunteers who help in a myriad of ways.
Inmates from the Fraser Regional Correctional Centre are crucial to doing the heavy lifting needed.
“We couldn’t do it without them,” she said, adding many inmates have families themselves are reliant on Christmas hampers.
And Bates wonders where she’d be if it wasn’t for the proceeds from the Strip-A-Thon produced by folks at the Caddyshack in the Haney Hotel.
That Dec. 8 event raise will raise all the cash that hamper society needs to provide food vouchers for full Christmas meals for families.
“They’re actually providing Christmas dinner for Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge financially disadvantaged families,” said Bates. “That’s how I like to say it because it’s the truth.”
• To register, government photo ID and proof of income are needed. See the website for more information.