At the employment department at Agassiz Harrison Community Services, executive director Grace Admiraal-Blansjee sees some of the people in her community who are having a hard time this year.
“We’re seeing seniors who are seeking employment to supplement their wallet because it’s hard to pay the bills with groceries so expensive,” she said. “And it’s not just the groceries. Everything is going up.”
Admiraal-Blansjee is grateful to Province readers for their generous donations to the Empty Stocking Fund, which will help many of the organization’s clients have a better Christmas this year.
“I must say thank you so much to donors to The Province’s Empty Stocking Fund for the cheque that we have received, because that money will contribute to the hampers that we’re giving out this year,” she said.
Agassiz Harrison Community Services is one of 26 B.C. community organizations that receive funds from the Empty Stocking Fund to provide food hampers and gifts to children, needy families and singles.
The organization serves people in Harrison Hot Springs, as well as the District of Kent, where Agassiz is located. The total population of the catchment is about 7,500.
This year, they’re giving out hampers to 184 households, including 107 seniors, 168 children and youth, and 180 adults.
“Besides hampers, they’ll receive a toy or toys. We have a display of toys in our reception area and each client can pick what they think they’d like to give to their loved one.”
The toys come from various drives and initiatives, like one at the local Red Apple store. The Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau also provides toys.
The local fire department hosts a food drive and the RCMP encourages people to donate non-perishable food items, new toys and cash donations leading up to its annual Stuff the Cruiser event.
The CP Holiday Train also comes through town.
“We are in a very busy period,” she said. “There are a lot of Christmas events organized in our community where we are involved.”
Prior to COVID, Agassiz Harrison Community Services operated its Christmas program in Agassiz’s agricultural hall.
“We had fresh produce, fruit, meat, cheese, clothing, Santa Claus closets. With COVID, that was all gone. No interactions could take place. But we still wanted to do something for the clients so we started with gift cards. They could also pick a toy. And they were very grateful for the support they received.”
The organization relies on volunteers throughout the year but especially at Christmas.
“Several of them volunteer at the food bank during the year but also at the Christmas season, which involve more volunteers because there’s more work to be done. The community is very involved. That is a beautiful thing to see.”
The Province’s Empty Stocking Fund campaign runs until Dec. 31.
Donations can be made by:
Online at: https://theprovince.com/esf
Mail to: The Province Empty Stocking Fund
968 East Cordova St., Vancouver, B.C., V6A 1M6
By calling: 604-253-6911
2023 direct donation link: https://secure.e2rm.com/registrant/DonationPage.aspx?eventid=385682
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