Nick Mayar and his wife, Lillian, have been volunteering with Deltassist for years. Each year, they help sort and hand out toys as part of the agency’s holiday program.
“It just sounded like a perfect fit for us because we were both retired and we were looking for something to make us feel useful again,” Nick said. “It’s very much a local resource, and local citizens are welcome to participate. It ticked all the boxes that we were looking for.”
At Christmas time, Deltassist partners with local service clubs to provide support for hundreds of families and individuals. The social services agency distributes holiday hampers, gives out toys and partners with local businesses for angel trees.
“We hand out angels with toy ideas on them and businesses put them on their tree, and their staff takes an angel and buys the gift and then puts it in the company’s donation box,” said Lisa Pitman, manager of Community and Seniors Services at Deltassist.
Last year, Deltassist helped nearly 1,200 households manage Christmas.
“We’re expecting more this year,” she said. “We have seen such an increase in homelessness. Plus, the cost of groceries has gone up so much that we’ve seen a lot more people come in for emergency food bags.”
Deltassist receives assistance for its Christmas programs from the Empty Stocking Fund, which relies on donations from readers of The Province. Funds collected go to Christmas bureaus and charitable groups throughout the Lower Mainland. Since 2001, the initiative has raised over $7 million.
Volunteers like the Mayars are needed to pack the hampers and staff the toy depot. Lillian, a former critical care nurse at Royal Columbian Hospital, enjoys working the tables at the depot and meeting people. Nick, a retired fleet services manager with Telus, likes to be “more in the background,” fixing or assembling things or locating certain items.
The people who come into the toy depot can be “quite overwhelmed,” he said. “They’re not sure what to expect and when they see all these people and this wide variety of toys and games they don’t know where to start, so they need assistance.
“Or you get the person who comes in and you can tell right away that their child has something specific that they’re dreaming of. The satisfaction you get in finding that thing and being able to give it to the person, you’re getting more out of it than they are.”
Another volunteer, Barb Leech, has been helping out at Deltassist for eight or nine years, including handing out toys at the depot.
“It’s very gratifying. I mean these people don’t have very much and some of them have five or six children and they’re given so many toys and puzzles and clothing and stuffed animals and books and stocking stuffers. So they go home with quite a surprising amount of gifts.”
“It’s not a big effort to do something to help somebody,” Mayar said. “I mean, it’s just not hard work compared to the things that everybody there has done in their previous lives. This is a way to keep busy but not stressed. A lot of the volunteers are either retired or close to it. Who else is going be free on a Tuesday, right?”
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