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'Terrifying' inflation sees demand surge at Surrey Christmas Bureau's Toy Depot, in Whalley

by Tom Zillich, Surrey Now-Leaver
Source: Surrey Now-Leader

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'Right now we're in a crunch for toys,' executive director says as donation drives get going

With grocery bills soaring out of control, Surrey Christmas Bureau is seeing a rush of requests for help this holiday season.

Rising inflation has led to an increase in registration numbers at the organization’s Toy Depot/warehouse, located at the former Safeway store in Whalley, at King George Boulevard and 104 Avenue.

“It’s terrifying, the inflation we’re seeing,” said Lisa Werring, executive director.

“We’re hearing from families that they are very concerned about the cost of groceries right now. Last year we handed out almost $190,000 in grocery vouchers. This year I’m worried that we’ll be over $200,000 in vouchers, which will stretch our budget to the max, so financial donations are hugely needed to support the hamper program.”

As demand rises at Surrey Christmas Bureau, so does the need for donations. Toy drives help, as do cash contributions, and others are stepping up with donations of different kinds.

On Wednesday (Nov. 23), Surrey’s SuperChefs Cookery For Kids program donated dozens of boxes filled with Gingerbread Mansion decorating kits, food vouchers, Holiday Baking booklets and other goodies, for families in need.

At Central City Shopping Centre, Surrey Central Lions Club ask shoppers to help “Stuff the Sleigh” with toys and cash donations Nov. 25-26.

Elsewhere, some local “Juice Box Hero” kids host a Spaghetti Lunch fundraiser on Sunday, Nov. 27, at Bozzini’s restaurant (13655 104 Ave.), starting at 1 p.m.

At Splashes locations, motorists can get a free car wash for a new, unwrapped toy donation, until Dec. 12, and those seeing the “Sleeping Beauty” panto at Surrey Arts Centre are encouraged to bring along a donation for Surrey Christmas Bureau.

At the Toy Depot, donated gift cards for teens are desperately needed.

“Right now we’re in a crunch for toys, for boys and girls nine to 12 years old, and of course for teenagers, too,” Werring said.

The shelves are organized into age groups, from toddlers to teenagers, in a former retail space shared with Fraser Health.

This year, the Christmas Bureau’s search for donated warehouse space went to the 11th hour, due to a commercial-space crunch in Surrey.

“We started having families shop here starting on Monday (Nov. 21), because we’re very behind schedule this year, with the delay in getting the toy depot going in this space,” Werring noted.

“Although there aren’t the COVID restrictions of the past, we’re still keeping the numbers low on a per-day basis, with about 30 to 40 families coming here daily,” she added. “We’ll have to increase those numbers, because of the demand, so starting Saturday (Nov. 26) we’ll start to see 60 to 70 families pick up per day. With that number of families, and some of them have a lot of kids, the toy numbers go down quite drastically — very, very quickly.”

No matter what, people will never see empty shelves at Surrey Christmas Bureau’s makeshift Toy Depot.


”We restock constantly, and if we run out of toys, we would put a pause on shopping,” Werring said. “One of the things that’s absolutely vital is that these shelves are always full, because I never, ever want a parent to feel like they’re getting the last toy on the shelf. This is about dignity for families and giving them a shopping experience.”

Student-volunteers from Guildford Park Secondary helped unload all the gingerbread kits donated by SuperChefs, which is led by local dentist Dr. Greg Chang.

“We continue to recognize the importance of promoting a healthier generation of youth in our community,” Chang said. “However, with the current inflationary pressures put on families, we need to fall back on the simple joys of having fun together at this time of year.”

In a decorating contest, the winner will get a $250 voucher for a HelloFresh subscription, allowing the winning family to keep on cooking together with fresh ingredients throughout the holidays, Chang explained. There will also be draws for electric toothbrush kits.

Werring said the Christmas Bureau can always use extra helping hands.

“For the first time in two years, we have our volunteer application online, which was closed during the pandemic and we kept the circle pretty tight,” she noted. “Especially Saturdays and Mondays, we can use the help on those days.”

Surrey Christmas Bureau is online at christmasbureau.com, or call 604-581-9623.