Surrey high school transforms into Santa's workshop

Teachers, parents, students and community volunteers are building dozens of wooden toys for the Surrey Christmas Bureau.

Combine piles of lumber, dozens of volunteers and hundreds of hours of work at Fraser Heights Secondary and you have a holiday toy-making factory.

It's a factory that has been in operation for 15 years helping out the Surrey Christmas Bureau, an organization that distributes Christmas toys to kids in need.

Martin Lim is a shop teacher at the school, and felt inspired to start the project after he volunteered on a school trip in Mexico.

All photos by Susana da Silva.

Lim says in the first year, volunteers made 10 toys. This year, they will make 60 in total, including 20 dinosaurs, 20 airplanes and 20 moose.

Every toy is made using supplies donated from local businesses.

"The community has been great," Lim says. 

"Giving us extra supplies and more volunteers, and over the years word of mouth has spread, people have come and given us a hand."

Lim says Santa's helpers include parents, students, members of the community and fellow teachers like Chris Mills.

Mills says assembling the toys is hard work.

"We prep for two weeks before everyone shows up to build and then there is about two weeks with everyone coming in the evening," Mills says. "So there is almost a full month's worth of machining and assembling that goes on to get these things ready for distribution."

But it is worth it, he says. He was there two years ago when volunteers delivered the toys.

"There were people there taking them off of the truck to their cars, they were that excited to have them," he says.

When Joanne Kotsiris started volunteering nine years ago, she had no wood working experience.

"Nothing, nothing. I had never picked up a tool before," she says with a laugh. "But I am getting better as the years go by."

She started volunteering at the workshop when her daughter was a student, and keeps coming back.

"I feel like I am in Santa's Workshop and we are working together for a common goal," she says. "It is a great way of getting everyone together for a special cause and giving back."

Volunteers help with all the tasks involved, including sawing, sanding, painting and assembling.

And given the upside down rocker on this moose, it's clear sometimes even Santa's elves can make a mistake.