British Columbia

Hamper program organizers worry they won't be able to meet surge in demand for children's presents

The Cloverdale Community Kitchen in Surrey, B.C., says it wants to give hundreds of children Christmas presents this year, but worries it won't be able to meet a surge of demand. 

900 children registered for program this year, up from average of 250, Cloverdale Community Kitchen says

Stuffed animals and other toys are pictured on boxes decorated with Christmas wrapping paper.
Donated toys are pictured at the Cloverdale Community Kitchen in Surrey, B.C., on Dec. 8. Each year, the organization provides families in need with Christmas hampers filled with food, toys and gift certificates. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The Cloverdale Community Kitchen in Surrey, B.C., says it wants to give hundreds of children Christmas presents this year, but worries it won't be able to meet a surge of demand. 

Each year, the organization provides families in need with Christmas hampers filled with food, toys and gift certificates.

The program has been running for 35 years and serves mostly families in east Surrey, says Matthew Campbell, executive director of the Cloverdale Community Kitchen.

Campbell says families register in advance for the hampers and have to show they're low-income to qualify. In previous years, an average of 250 children were registered for the program annually, but this year that number is 900, he says.

"They've gone through the process of registering, which can't be an easy one. They're asking for help and you wanna make sure you do that," said Campbell. 

Ali Muhsin, a father of five, says he relies on the program to get gifts for his children. Muhsin, a doctor, has been unable to practice his profession since arriving in Canada, and says he struggles to provide for his family.

A man in a teal-covered hoodie is pictured in line, with a stroller, along with other people, inside what appears to be a warehouse.
Ali Muhsin, a doctor who's been unable to practice his profession since arriving in Canada, is pictured in line at the Cloverdale Community Kitchen in Surrey, B.C., on Dec. 8. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

"Of course we need help, we need help especially this time … everything [is] very expensive," he said. "My children, they [do] not understand [if] I can bring [presents] or I cannot.

"They look to their friends — their families give their friends big or very expensive or good gifts [for] Christmas." 

Calling for help from the community

Campbell says he's worried they won't meet the needs of the children who registered for the hampers this year, and they're asking the community for help. 

"We're putting out a huge call to the community, running toy drives so we can make sure every one of these kids and teens get gifts this Christmas," he said.

Matthew Campbell, director of the Cloverdale Community Kitchen, says an average of 250 children are registered for the program annually, but this year that number has jumped to 900. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

He says anyone can help by donating toys and gift certificates at the Cloverdale Community Kitchen. 

"A lot of these kids and especially some of our new Canadians, came to the country with just a shirt on their back, maybe a suitcase," said Campbell, adding that some children may be celebrating their first Christmas this year, and will see classmates with new gifts and toys once they return to school in January.

"Imagine if you went back to school and you had zero," he said, "so we want to make sure that these kids feel welcomed in Canada, loved and cared for."

With files from Zahra Premji

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