British Columbia

Meet the 3 generations of this Vancouver family who donate their time over the holidays

Bridget Orford co-founded Aunt Leah's more than 30 years ago and still volunteers over the holidays with her children and grandchildren.

Bridget Orford co-founded Aunt Leah's and still volunteers with her family today

The Orford family in Aunt Leah’s Tree Lot on Granville Street in Vancouver. Three generations of Orfords volunteer for the organization. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

This story is part of a special series about people who make time to volunteer in their community over the winter holidays.


The family that volunteers together, stays together, according to Bridget Orford — and can help out a good cause while they do.

It's been 30 years since Orford, 76, first got involved with Aunt Leah's, which supports children in foster care and young mothers. Despite the busyness of the holiday period, she finds time to give to the Metro Vancouver non-profit organization.

"It's a lovely family activity," Orford said of volunteering over the holidays. "I'd rather be doing this than shopping."

Orford and her husband, Tony Orford, were foster parents 30 years ago when they helped found Aunt Leah's. Today, they volunteer for the organization alongside their children and grandchildren. 

Volunteer Bridgett Orford has been involved with the non-profit organization, Aunt Leah's, for 30 years. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

The elder Orfords have cut back their involvement with Aunt Leah's to occasionally help out at social functions. But their son, daughter-in-law and grandchild all volunteer in various capacities at the organization's Christmas tree lots, which raise money for the 201 youth, mothers and children in the organization's care. 

James Orford, 46, says he was about 18 when he started volunteering for Aunt Leah's.  

"It was just, it was something I was expected to do — help out with the community," James said. "It's very rewarding."

At first James helped out with odd jobs, like painting the homes where the foster kids lived. But more recently the tree lots have been his main focus. Between jobs at the window and gutter cleaning business he runs with his dad, James pops by to help load trees. 

James Orford started volunteering for Aunt Leah's when he was about 18. Orford now helps load Christmas trees for sale at the organization's lots between jobs. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

James Orford's wife of 20 years, Moira Orford, also volunteers for Aunt Leah's. Moira says she started donating her time at the Christmas tree lots shortly after they got married.

"It's really nice. It really puts you in the Christmas spirit," Moira Orford said.  

After their daughter Oona was born, they started bringing her along too. Oona, now 14, doesn't remember when exactly she first started coming to the Christmas tree lots. 

"I would usually run around and eat the cookies from behind the table," she said. 

Volunteering at Aunt Leah's helps Oona Orford, 14, fulfill her high school requirements. She says it's also a nice way to spend time with her family. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

High school students in B.C. need to volunteer as part of their graduation requirements. Oona says it's handy that her family's time at Aunt Leah's helps her fulfil that. 

But Oona says it's also just a nice way to spend time with her parents and grandparents. 

"It's really great. Most families I see, they don't do stuff like this," she said.


Know a volunteer who goes the extra mile over the holidays? Send Maryse a note at maryse.zeidler@cbc.ca

About the Author

Maryse Zeidler

@MaryseZeidler

Maryse Zeidler is a reporter for CBC News in Vancouver, covering news from across British Columbia. You can reach her at maryse.zeidler@cbc.ca.

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